This excursion into the world of Dutch Still Life studies, as expected, is proving more of a shop-a-lot than a make or build experience. All of which is fun for me but not much use on the blog page. But I’m getting there, doing an awful lot of reading 😉
I’ve really enjoyed going back through the art books. It’s been great trying to refresh the little I can remember from art history studies half a century ago; and I’d like to share a few of the easy access online sites I’ve come across while seeing if present day art historians approach the subject any differently. (I may have overdone it just a little.)
Symbolism – any conclusions?
Symbols V adding glory to the wealth of a great trading nation
Didn’t find a great deal of difference in general but I think there’s perhaps more exploration of the symbolism of just about every object in each painting. To modern, non-historian eyes, particularly viewing the more sumptuous paintings, it’s easier to read in to them the enjoyment of how glorious the golden age of Dutch trade could be, which all boils down to ‘go home and stuff yourself with what you can get today, because tomorrow …’ — which in itself equals the warnings embodied within the symbolism, but without the religious background.
Objects of study
Good, now we’ve faced life’s possibilities let’s get down to the still-life layouts. I’m going to take it for granted that the artists arranged objects upright or lying down, near the light or not, with the idea of flow of composition, colour etc, as much as the symbolism of a reclining goblet spilling its contents or anything else.
What would I like to know?
- Where’s the eye-line and the direction of the light source?
- How many reflections in surfaces are there and are they lit by the same light source?
- Are we looking straight on at the table-top almost edge on, more or less at the objects level
- or from slightly higher up, revealing more of the table surface, looking down upon the items
- offering a slightly more open view of the room itself so that the room becomes a secondary character in the scene?
Going from one artist’s work to another comparing these points, I swear I spot some of the same table items. I’m not talking about the perishables, but fruit stands, bowls, glassware. Are they all round at Jan’s place picking out the bits they fancy and passing them round or just borrowing from the same neighbours or warehouse?
Pick a painting, any painting
- (Banquet Still Life by Abraham van Beyeren, Oil on canvas, 118.2 x 167.6 cm, Hohenbuchau Collection, on permanent loan to Liechtenstein, The Princely Collections, Vienna)
- Drink and grapes
Angle of the table to the viewer
I’ve picked the van Beyeren to pinch layout ideas as there’s so much going on to choose from, including the inevitable lobster. He seems to be using only part of the table, (look to far right in his painting) and he has brought the left side, which is in front of a window, forward a little, setting it slightly askew to the viewer, foreshortening the surface, slightly pushing the left hand objects at the viewer which seems to increase a sense of things about to take the tumble off the edge. Does that tray with the goblets look safe to you?
I can’t do any angling of the table, as much as I like it, as the mini table’s too long and the room box too shallow, so a straight on view it is and it’s just as well that I don’t want to actually try to repro the painting; working in a shadow box has its own funny ways.
With a 3D of the box the viewer can physically move around and peek into the sides of the room, look down at the floor and up at the ceiling, and depending on the height it’s displayed at, almost look under the table!
Quick layout of some bits once again. Don’t you think the lobster looks like a squeeky toy?
Shopping aside, what is left to make?
The Nautilus Shell – a symbol for expansion and renewal which I was going to leave out but, while ferreting through what needs using, I came across a lovely dried out snail shell and have played about a bit with that. Not keen on gold items and didn’t want to destroy the shell’s markings so more or less left it as was. Not quite large enough and very wonky-made but might still use it.
Bit small but might fit in, even though it’s scrappy and needs a larger base.
Painting up the only largish bowl in stock
and scraping off the paint to make a pattern.
Might work when filled with grapes.
Trying to turn apples into peaches
Mostly have apples and oranges, or similar to hand, grapes, lots of grapes needed, and are in the post, hopefully still in one piece, as these form the linking material between many of the objects.
Some of the glassware, goblets, decanters, need liquids adding for colour and change of reflection. There’s at least one basket wants making, the homemade vine leaves need colour shading, the linen ware lacks shape plus the lobster could do with some shadows, I think.
Otherwise I’m sitting under the letterbox waiting.
It’s very hot sitting by this letterbox
Further links should you so desire 🙂
- Abraham Hendriksz van Beijeren or Abraham van Beyeren
- In Dutch Still Lifes, Dark Secrets Hide behind Exotic Delicacies
- Symbols of Change in Dutch Golden Age Still Life Paintings: Teachers’ Guide and Lesson Plan