Oil on panel signed Jacob van Es and dated 1638.
In a simple arrangement, Jacob van Es displays food and tableware on the sloping surface of a table. He chooses to highlight each object against the green tone of a tablecloth (the strident notes of the lemon and the lump of butter stand out beautifully against this hue) and he organizes their distribution in space with great skill. Thus, hazelnuts, lemon, fish or butter are precisely outlined and the pewter or porcelain dishes and glasses complete the picture. In an effort to balance the volumes, he alternates the plates with the mounted glasses, while allowing the eye a certain amount of rest: by the measure he establishes between the fulls and the voids, his composition offers a real impression of balance.
To embellish the whole, Jacob van Es pegs a pink carnation on the lump of butter. The Latin name for the carnation means "God's flower" and according to a Nordic tradition, on the wedding day the bride must carry a carnation, which the groom must then find by searching her: it is because of this custom that the carnation is a symbol of marriage or a promise of love. Butter, on the other hand, refers to the idea of spiritual rebirth associated with the incarnation of Christ. It represents the humanity of Christ as opposed to honey, which represents the divine nature of Christ. Butter is a symbol of spiritual virtues.
In a composition that one would think is static, the spiral formed by the lemon rind brings a discreet movement that opposes the curvature given to the fish steak that symbolizes Christ. The lemon, whose image is often associated with that of the Virgin, has many healing properties, including being a powerful remedy against poisons. Here it is an emblem of faithfulness to love because it bears fruit all year round.
Finally, the hazelnuts placed in a jumble are a symbol of salvation: according to an ancient Christian legend, while the Virgin was picking strawberries, a viper emerged from the grass and began to pursue her. Mary found refuge in a hazelnut tree, which thus has a saving power.
Promise of love, virtue, fidelity, salvation, the composition of Jacob van Es leaves no doubt about its message.
Signed IAC. VAN. ES and dated 1638 in the carpet at the bottom left (color and black and white photos with increased contrast).
We have chosen to present this painting in a French provincial carved and gilded wood frame from the late 17th century. It is a rare model decorated with shells and flowers in the corners and with a reparure decoration in the middle.
Dimensions : 47 x 62,5 - 65 x 81 with the frame.
Related works :
Eels and olives with two glasses, sale Galerie Charpentier Paris of December 3, 1959. Oil on panel, 48 x 63 cm. Illustrated in Les Peintres flamands de nature morte au XVIIe siècle - Edith Greindl 1983, illustrated n°72 page 213 and listed p. 346 n°49. RKD 16674
Still life with fish, hazelnuts, shrimp and porcelain bowl with butter, H.M. Cramer Gallery The Hague. Oil on panel, 45 x 62.5 cm. Listed in Les Peintres flamands de nature morte au XVIIe siècle - Edith Greindl 1983 p. 345 n°23. RKD 16676