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El Paso Museum of Art
Recent Acquisitions

 
Pigs Knuckles on a Pewter Plate with Oysters and Wine Glasses on a Draped Table FEATURED ACQUISITION

FLEMISH SCHOOL, CIRCA 1630’s


Pigs Knuckles on a Pewter Plate with Oysters and Wine Glasses on a Draped Table
oil on panel
11 x 14 inches (28 x 36.8 cm.)

The unusual mixture of expensive and modest elements in the same still life derives from a Netherlandish tradition that began in the early 1600’s. Stemming from the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-21), contemporary moralists advocated a temperate lifestyle as opposed to one spent pursuing worldly riches.

From a raised vantage point on a slightly tipped tabletop the viewer is presented with crystal wine glasses, oysters, a worn pewter plate with pigs knuckles stripped of all meat on a rough hewn table draped with a plain cloth. Contrasting textures and shapes are defined by the clash of light and shadow within the panel. The restriction of the palette to brown, white, grey and silver serves to unify the composition while reflecting the sobriety of its message. [1]

Crystal wine glasses were expensive as was the wine they held. Oysters, also a luxury, were eaten in large numbers, especially in port towns such as Antwerp. All levels of society enjoyed pork, yet with the stripping of all the meat from the bones the potential meal is meager, only the marrow left to consume. [2]

The confrontation of temperance versus opulence has been clearly defined by a strategic use of elemental objects. The combination of wine and oysters would have been viewed as emblematic of gluttony and lust. Plain food and common objects were seen as the path to redemption. [3]

________________________
[1] Ibid., p. 25.
[2] Donna R. Barnes, “Jan Davidsz. De Heem”, Matters of Taste, op. cit., p. 76.
[3] Rose, op. cit., p. 18.

 
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