Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pieter Gerritsz Van Roestraeten

Pieter Gerritsz Van Roestraeten. Chinese Tea Bowls, 17th century.

Roestraeten was one of the most successful Dutch painters working in England, moving to London in the 1660s and remaining there until his death. Though his painting remained characteristically Dutch, his success was perhaps largely dependent on his ability to portray glass in pipe and cup form, alike.

Van Roestraeten presents a lamentably English scene: afternoon tea. There is a dull edge to the daylight here, the cups and kettle appear to be slouching. There is a depression in the painting, as if Van Roestraeten himself were distracted. The tones suggest a wanton mind; while Pieter painted his likely-commissioned work he dreamed of the relief that comes with the common tea break. Though painting the London aristocracy's most common scene Van Roestraeten holds tightly to the precision of his Dutch predecessors. The edges of the kettle make a sharp appearance before ducking quickly into the shadows; the candy cane colors of the piece sweep into the black and frictionless tabletop; the milk-sweetened teas shimmer in their cups. While the painter tightens the strings of attention and wrings the rag of concentration he is unable to shake a hopeful thought for release. Release from commissions for a time to reflect, to savor and to neglect the tasks that have filled the day and those that will round it out. Despite Van Roestraeten's disinterest the representations are as sharp as this morning's razor.


Jan Peeters said...

Ah, Hermann – I remember when you mailed me a postcard of this lovely painting during your time in Frankfurt! I have it on my refrigerator.

Hermann Wundrum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hermann Wundrum said...

It's nice to hear you mention the card. Only a few days ago I was admiring one of the cards you sent me years ago, Caravaggio's painting of a basket of fruit. The cardboard is a bit creased and bumped but it's traveled with me through four offices in three countries and I kept it close by during those black days in the late 90s, a serene reminder of a painter who showed me the path and a friend who encouraged me to follow it.

Jan Peeters said...

The late 90s were truly dreadful.

90 said...


I don't know if I appreciate your zeal for the classic arts as much as your friend Mr. Delacroix, but I wanted to extend a hearty e-handshake for exposing these artists for what they really are: the original inspiration for one Jeff Spicoli.

Thank you, friends, thank you,

Dr. Charles Pinto, PHD

Jan Peeters said...

Have you read Mr. Spicoli's 1994 essay on leaves in early Dutch still life painting? It is in one of that year's Chicago Art Journals, I believe (my own copy is in storage in Leiden), and is a gentle but insightful exploration of botanical decay. What became of him?

Aparna said...

These are really beautiful
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