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Still Life on a Draped Table, ca. 1635

Artist: Roelof Koets, Dutch, 1592/93 - 1655

Medium: Oil on panel

Painting: 29 5/8 x 43 in. (75.2 x 109.2 cm)
Frame: 36 3/8 x 49 1/2 x 1 7/8 in. (92.4 x 125.7 x 4.8 cm)

Credit Line: Memphis Brooks Museum of Art purchase; Morrie A. Moss Acquisition Fund

Object Number: 2002.2

On View

Sotheby's, New York, New York (sale, lot 69), Jan. 12, 1989; Sotheby's, New York, New York (sale lot 217), Jan. 24, 2002

Roelof Koets was a Dutch painter from the town of Zwolle, north-east of Amsterdam. Although Zwolle had a limited art school, Koets painted very much in the tradition of still life painters from the town of Haarlem. Our painting shows a decorative garland of grapes and leaves and vines, a typical 17th-century Roemer or wine glass, a herring covered in butter and capers, a roll, a partially peeled lemon, and an ebony-handled knife.

 

The Dutch did not have a term for still life prior to 1650. A painting like this one would have been known as an ontbijte (little breakfast) or banketje (little banquet). In the tradition of the second wave of still-life painters in Haarlem, this painting is marked by monochromatic color and a painterly execution, creating a more unified image. Unlike earlier still life traditions, the viewpoint has been brought down lower, almost equal with the viewer. Although it looks straightforward, the painting really harbors a complexity of meanings. It has Lenten overtones, with the wine, fish and bread. It is also a demonstration of luxury, especially with the salt cellar and rather exotic lemon. Therefore, the painting is both a warning against excess and a demonstration thereof. Koets has depicted a scene that looks quite careless, with the partially peeled lemon, the cracked nuts and the hastily gathered tablecloth. This is contrasted, however, with the painting's meticulous attention to detail and perfect rendering of objects.