Friday, December 26, 2008

Floris Gerritsz Van Schooten II

Floris Gerritsz Van Schooten. Christmas Breakfast, 1621

This morning, while walking to feed the pigs, I was struck by the sharp calm on our farm. I was reminded of a boyhood Christmas in Vaalserberg, peering from the window of my Aunt Femek's cabin at the just-fallen snow. There was a certain peace when the snow had stopped. A gauzy layer wrapped the trees, carriages and outer houses. In the evenness of light the distant hills seemed to disappear as the ground and sky bled together. The cabin swelled with the aromas of frying ham and oliebollen baking in the oven. Admiring the snow my thoughts slowed. My mind slipped away from the excitement of the oil paints and walnuts that Sinterklaas had left me to absorb the monochromatic landscape. Of course Floris Gerritsz Van Schooten's Christmas Breakfast appeared vividly in my mind.

Much like Van Schooten's 1621 painting, Still life with Larder, farmyard fowl, a turkey, pigeons, a plover, duck, a starling, partridge and snipe, with game and songbirds and rabbits suspended from nails, a rib of beef, a bong and an artichoke, grape, with copper pans, watched by a couple seated at the end of a table, a landscape with two men visible through the embrasure , the scene presents an abundance of food. The table is laid with a hearty Christmas breakfast: puffy breads and rich cheeses, an overflowing plate of oliebollen, pears and apples, a carton of egg nog and an oozing bean pie. The plate of butter and the one-hitter heighten the mood. We can expect a lifelike rendering from any work by Van Schooten (an early master of the genre) but here the pipe and melty butter signify indulgence. Christmas is a time when familiar things become new and sensational. A morning meal is more rich than the previous day's, the cheese is sharper, the rolls are chewier, the weed more sticky. On this Christmas morning I hope that you and yours might enjoy Van Schooten's scene with refreshed senses. Merry Christmas!

1 comment:

Jan Peeters said...

I remember seeing this painting at the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp -- the moment I passed it, I spun on my heels and returned to it; for several ecstatic seconds I could smell the rich cheese and oliebollen mingled with the resiny scent of van Schooten's favorite one-hitter!