Friday, March 9, 2012

Joachim Sandrart

Joachim von Sandrart. February, 1642

Often in our academic lives (Jan will agree!) we must take time away from important tasks to consider the work of our colleagues. To assist with the lecture notes, manuscripts and restoration projects that fill an art historian's days. And this morning, I'd like to share a bit of a certain colleague's work with our readers.

We have much in common, my friend and I, as art historians. His path toward a career in the arts was a winding one, studying first drawing, then engraving and finally painting and art history. It was only after earning an undergraduate degree in marine biology and then starting my practice restoring furniture that I came to study painting. My colleague, like me, worked for a time and studied painting in Utrecht. And as a historian he had a great interest in writing. The culmination of his greatest research was a widely acclaimed collection of writing on art history, education and the lives of artists. Many readers of the blog would by now know that I am referring to Joachim Sandrart.

It was in Utrecht that he studied with Gerrit van Honthorst, the great painter of candlelight, table games and revelry. From Honthorst we can be sure that Sandrart learned to appreciate the pleasures of the table. In the lovingly rendered cold cuts tray, we find its alternating mounds of ham, turkey and roast beef. And in the doughy face of the butcher, hoisting the tray in pride, we see his sweaty brow perfectly rendered. Sandrart's piece is both tender and cruel in its depiction of flesh. There is haste in our butcher's pose, as he prepares to carry the cold cuts to the party pictured over his left shoulder. There is a banquet table lined with lively guests, enjoying their evening, good company, bottles of fine meads, crispy bacon, cubes of Swiss and cheddar cheeses and wreaths brotherly smoke. We, too, might enjoy the painting, like the company of a wise and gracious colleague.

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