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This Post Is Only About Cheese. In Painting

Floris van Dyck, Still Life with Fruit, Nuts and Cheese, 1613, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, The Netherlands

Food

This Post Is Only About Cheese. In Painting

I feel ashamed. As an official cheese-lover who could eat it every day for every meal, I still haven’t dedicated a single line to cheese in painting! I must repent and compensate all cheese lovers for the lost time. This post is best enjoyed with blue cheese fondue, a cheesecake, a toast with butter and cheese, some nice onion soup with cheddar, a cheese muffin, a cheeseburger, or just a piece of sheep cheese on its own…

Cheese and Almonds

Clara Peeters, Still Life with Cheeses, Almonds and Pretzels, 1615, Mauritshuis, Hague, Netherlands, cheese in painting

Clara Peeters, Still Life with Cheeses, Almonds and Pretzels, 1615, Mauritshuis, Hague, Netherlands

There is no confirmed info of Clara Peeters. We’re led to believe she worked in Antwerp (the supports that she used for her paintings bear marks from that city), as one of few women painters. Nearly all of her paintings are still lifes, a limitation imposed by contemporary culture on women who wanted to create.  If you study the side of the knife’s handle, you will see Peeter’s signature: six of her known paintings include the same inscribed silver knife. Moreover, on the blade of at least three of these knives, there is a silver mark of the city of Antwerp. At Peeter’s time knives were carried by guests when they were invited to a party or were used as wedding gifts.

Cheese and Artichokes

Clara Peeters, Still Life with Cheeses, Artichoke, and Cherries, 1625, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA, US

Clara Peeters, Still Life with Cheeses, Artichoke, and Cherries, 1625, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA, US

Cheese and Fruit

Floris van Dyck, Still Life with Cheeses, c.1615, Rijksmuseum, The Netherlands, cheese in painting

Floris van Dyck, Still Life with Cheeses, c.1615, Rijksmuseum, The Netherlands

Floris Claesz. van Dijck was a painter from Haarlem who today ranks as one of the pioneers of Dutch still-life painting. We can definitely see why: his astounding illusion of reality makes us believe that the pewter plate on the edge of the table seems close enough to touch, and we can almost sense the delicacy of the damask material for the beautifully ornamented tablecloths.

Floris van Dyck, Still Life with Fruit, Nuts and Cheese, 1613, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, The Netherlands, cheese in painting

Floris van Dyck, Still Life with Fruit, Nuts and Cheese, 1613, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, The Netherlands


We have a very similar scene here: damask tablecloths, Chinese porcelain, pewter dishes, and various foods which make this still life a ‘breakfast piece’, type originated around 1610 in Antwerp and Haarlem. We see the table slightly from above, which was the characteristic point of view of early still lifes, to make all the objects and their details be clearly seen.

Cheese and Butter

Floris van Schooten (circa 1580/1588–1656) Blue pencil.svg wikidata:Q420055 Floris van Schooten, Still-Life with Glass, Cheese, Butter and Cake, unknown date, private collection, cheese in painting

Floris van Schooten, Still-Life with Glass, Cheese, Butter and Cake, first half of the 17th c., private collection

Van Schooten began his career with enormous breakfast-pieces filled with food and items on a table top, tilted towards the spectator and covered with rugs or white damask cloths. Later, he limited his compositions to small-scale pieces focusing on fruit and often featuring a pewter beaker with punched decoration. He had a practice of signing his work with a small monogram, often tucked away on a knife blade or dish edge (if anyone can spot it here, let me know!), which has sadly contributed to the fact that many of his pictures were attributed to others…

Cheese and Flowers

Joris van Son, Still-Life with Cheese, 1650s, Palais des Archevêques, Tours, cheese in painting

Joris van Son, Still-Life with Cheese, 1650s, Palais des Archevêques, Tours


Joris van Son worked in Antwerp under another painter Jan Davidsz de Heem, one of the rare artists who captured the extent of the exuberance of Flemish Baroque painting (de Heem was Dutch, so there was a difference in painting, especially in colouring). Joris van Son successfully adopted the style of his master and continued with similar compositions.

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Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.

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