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After Aertsen, Pieter (Netherlandish painter, born 1507 or 1508, died 1575) , Fruit and Vegetables with Figures in the Background

Core Record

Title Fruit and Vegetables with Figures in the Background
Collection Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle
Artist After Aertsen, Pieter (Netherlandish painter, born 1507 or 1508, died 1575)
Attributed to Flemish School
Previously attributed to Bassano, Jacopo, il vecchio (Italian painter and draftsman, ca. 1510-1592)
Date Earliest about 1565
Date Latest possibly about 1600

Baskets and bowls full of beans, grapes, cabbages, turnips, peaches and watermelons become protagonists in this everyday scene. They are brought to the foreground and rendered with a minute attention to detail that recalls the style of Joachim Beuckelaer's still-life paintings. These fruits and vegetables are the product of agricultural work to which the figures in the background allude.

The large cabbage in the centre of the composition recalls the metaphor of luxurious living in Pliny's Natural History. Pumpkins, cabbages, melons and gourds often appeared in the descriptions of markets which Latin and Greek satirists used to criticise contemporary morals.

Current Accession Number B.M.83
Subject still life (fruit, vegetables); figure
Measurements 141.9 x 109.8 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Bequeathed by the founders John and Joséphine Bowes 1885.

M. Soria suggested that the painting might be the work of a Flemish artist working in Florence, such as Jan van der Straet, or of an Italian painter under Flemish influence, such as Vincenzo Campi.

This picture was recorded in the 1913 catalogue as by 'Giacomo da Ponte (called Bassano)'.

It reproduces the composition of Pieter Aertsen's Preparing for the Market (about 1567-69, Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam). As in Aertsen's work, vegetables are piled in the foreground, while two men and a young woman work in the background. THe woman is seated next to a well over which one of the men leans.

Margaret A. Sullivan has suggested a connection between this type of Netherlandish still life with figures and the popularity of Latin sources, such as Pliny's Natural History, in the Netherlands in the sixteenth century. According to this author, Aertsen's scenes emulate the rhyparographus, or low-life subjects with humble objects, described by Pliny. Sullivan also refers to the satirical or moral content of these images, equally inspired by Latin satirical writers, popular among Christian humanists in the North. Sullivan, M. A., 'Aertsen's Kitchen and Market Scenes: Audience and Innovation in Northern Art', Art Bulletin, vol. 81, no. 2, 1999, pp. 236-66.

Rights Owner The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, Co. Durham
Author Dr Mercedes Cerón



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