The Dutch master Floris van Schooten is renowned for his ‘breakfast pieces’. This kind of still life with food was very popular in the 17th century. Holland was rich and powerful during this ‘Golden Age’ and the wealthy citizens became increasingly interested in art that displayed this prosperity.
The opulence of life
This still life extols the opulence of life. Van Schooten’s contemporaries know that the excellent meal in this painting also contains an admonishment. After all, foodstuffs are perishable, just as earthly pleasures are transient. But it is a mild admonishment: in this breakfast, the emphasis is on abundance. That abundance is thanks to the trade with the Far East, the Chinese plate is a reminder of that.
Extravagance and simplicity
In this still life, Van Schooten displays his talent for the convincing and extremely detailed rendering of the texture and beauty of food. Nonetheless, his breakfast pieces are simultaneously characterized by simplicity. The colours are sober, mostly black, brown and yellow. And despite the table being abundantly strewn with spices, we see no extravagant goblets or silver dishes, as in the still lifes of, for instance, his contemporary Willem Claeszoon Heda.