Art Kaleidoscope

Between art and craft

Renaissance still life code

Frans Snyders, Fruit Stall. Flanders, Between 1618 and 1621. The State Hermitage Museum, Russia

Frans Snyders, Fruit Stall. Flanders, Between 1618 and 1621. The State Hermitage Museum, Russia

Renaissance still life codeFrans Snyders, Fruit Stall. Flanders, between 1618 and 1621. The State Hermitage Museum, Russia.
At the end of the Renaissance in northern Europe still life genre from decorative has become a philosophical statement in paints. XVI-XVIII century – a golden time in the history of European still life. In those years, there were two main schools of art, specializing in images of flowers, fruit and subjects – Flemish and Dutch. Despite the fact that Flanders (Belgium) and the Netherlands were the neighboring states, their artists had different meanings in the display of “dead nature” (still life in Flanders), or “quiet life” (in the Netherlands).

Jan Davidsz de Heem, Dutch (1606-1684)

Jan Davidsz de Heem, Dutch (1606-1684)

The main objective of Dutch masters – to express the idea of ​​”vanity of vanities” impermanence of all things, the proximity of death. These topics most worried Protestant theologians. Therefore, in still lifes by Dutch artists we often meet skull, extinguished candle, a stopped clock. All of this framed with poppies – a symbol of eternal sleep, daffodils – a symbol of the transience of life, violets – symbols of the fragility of beauty, and so on.

Peaches and plums. Jacob van Hulsdonck. Flemish still life painter. 1582–1647

Peaches and plums. Jacob van Hulsdonck. Flemish still life painter. 1582–1647

In Flanders, it was the opposite. In contrast to the Protestant Netherlands, Belgium experienced Catholic revival, and task worthy of the artist, was not negation but affirmation, the glorification of God’s creation. In the words of the German mystic Paracelsus: “In short, plants and rocks – everywhere is God.”

Frans Snyders

Frans Snyders (11 November 1579 – 19 August 1657), detail of portrait painted by Anthony Van Dyck

Therefore, the Flemish still life – a celebration of life, the triumph of perfect nature. Virtuoso of the genre is considered Frans Snyders, a colleague and friend of Rubens. In the years 1618- 1621, he created four paintings under the title “bench”, “Fish Shop”, “Shop Game” (of poultry), “Shop vegetables” and “Fruit Shop”, which is now kept in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia. According to the employee of the museum candidate of art Olga Prokhorova, an encyclopedia of Flemish still life with his major allegorical themes – “Seasons”, “The Five Senses” (taste, hearing, smell, touch, sight) and “The Four Elements” (air, water, fire , earth). Most rich with symbols is “Fruit Shop.”

Fruit stall. Detail - Shopkeeper and the lady

Fruit stall. Detail – Shopkeeper and the lady

The figures of Shopkeeper and the lady represent the peaceful life (in other paintings this role is carried out by plowing farmer and the marina).

Renaissance still life code. Hand with apricot

Renaissance still life code. Hand with apricot

(1) Hand with apricot symbolizes the sense of touch. Apricot is a symbol of self-sufficiency (this is a self-pollinating tree).

Renaissance still life code. Scales

Renaissance still life code. Scales

(2) Scales, like any forged object, symbolize fire (while fish symbolizes water, broken bird – air and crops – earth).

Renaissance still life code. The fig

The fig

(3) The fig is a symbol of generosity (it gives abundant fruits).

Renaissance still life code. Barking dog

Barking dog

(4) Barking dog is a symbol of hearing (ear perceives barking) . On the other paintings of Snyders we meet other characters of taste (meat, fish) and smell (dog sniffing game).

Renaissance still life code. The monkey

The monkey

(5) The monkey symbolizes taste.

Renaissance still life code. Pine cones

Pine cones

(6) Pine cones (Italian pine)- symbol of hope for happiness in eternity (pine – evergreen tree).

Renaissance still life code. Asparagus

Asparagus

(7) Asparagus – symbol of peace (in the Middle Ages it was used as a sedative).

Renaissance still life code. Squirrel

Squirrel

(8) Squirrel is a symbol of hard work it took to grow this abundance.

Renaissance still life code. Artichoke

Artichoke

(9) Artichoke is a symbol of earthly love (it was believed that it helps to get pregnant).

Fruit is a symbol of summer (grass were symbols of spring, poultry – autumn, and fish – winter, they are depicted in the other three paintings from the series by Snyders).

Renaissance still life code. Lemon and Pomegranate

Lemon and Pomegranate

(10) Lemon is a symbol of fidelity and love (it bears fruit throughout the year).

(11) Pomegranate is a symbol of the universal church (as it brings together as many people, as many grains are in a pomegranate).

(12) Orange is a symbol of purity and innocence (its white flowers often decorated the Virgin).

Renaissance still life code. Blackberry

Blackberry

(13) Blackberry is a symbol of purity of the Virgin Mary. It is believed that burning bush, which appeared to Moses, blackberry serves as a prototype of motherhood and virginity of the Virgin. Therefore, about the Mother of God said: “She gave birth to the flame of divine love, not burned with desire.”

Renaissance still life code. Raspberry

Raspberry

(14) Raspberry – symbol of kindness (Saint Martin fed the poor with raspberries).

Renaissance still life code. Apple

Apple

(15) Apple is the symbol of salvation and redemption (it is often portrayed in the Middle Ages in the hands of baby Jesus).

Renaissance still life code. Grapes

Grapes

(16) Grapes are a symbol of Christ (“I am the true vine, and my Father – grower”, John. 15: 1).

Renaissance still life code. Cherry

Cherry

(17) Cherry symbol of Jesus’ blood.

Renaissance still life code. Plum

Plum

(18) Plum is considered a symbol of loyalty, but additional meanings depends on the color. Dark purple plum points to the suffering and death of Christ, yellow – the purity of Jesus, red is a symbol of his mercy, white speaks of his humility.

Renaissance still life code. Cherry

Sweet cherry

(19) Sweet cherry is a symbol of heavenly grace.

Renaissance still life code. Pumpkin

Pumpkin

(20) Pumpkin is a symbol of resurrection and salvation (according to the Bible, a pumpkin grown by the will of God, to give the shadow to the prophet Jonah).

Renaissance still life code. Pear

Pear

(21) Pear – sweet symbol of virtue.

Renaissance still life code. Peach

Peach

(22) Peach is a symbol of the Trinity (it consists of three parts: the fruit, bone and bone kernel).

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