Early 19th-Century Dutch School

Still Life With Rigaree Glass Decanter, Goblets & Fruit

Early 19th-Century Dutch School

Still Life With Rigaree Glass Decanter, Goblets & Fruit

This early 19th-century still life depicts a table with a rigaree glass decanter, three goblets and a variety of fruit. It’s inspired by 17th-century Dutch still lifes.

When examining a work of this nature it’s interesting to consider the symbolism behind the array of objects on display as still lifes often contain a hidden narrative for the viewer to decipher. During the 17th century, Dutch merchants, abundant with new wealth, sought to decorate their homes with paintings that celebrated exotic imported fruit/vegetables, trinkets, flowers and textiles. Consider it a precursor to the garish celebrity lifestyles we witness today on Instagram.

This new demand for ostentation was met by hundreds of artists that produced an array of overflowing tables and lavish bouquets. But under the colourful veneer of beauteous goods, lay a deeper symbolic meaning for an intelligent viewer to get their teeth into. Each object has a code to crack and every tumble of fruit contains a symbolic reference.

Here, the artist includes a rigaree glass decanter and goblets. Two goblets are standing while the third is on its side as if discarded after a feast. While the array of fruit and nuts is scattered as if disturbed by hungry hands. Also note how two of the almonds are cracked open and the fruit appears to be past its best.

By displaying the objects post-feast, the artist is capturing more than simply each individual form. They’re suggesting that regardless of wealth, all things decay. Prosperity is time-limited and carries only a surface value. So why? Why would the artist hint at decay rather than paint the luxurious goods in their finest state? Wouldn’t it be easier to sell a painting that beautified every object to the nth degree? The answer relates to the ‘fashion’ for piousness, which derives from the Dutch Calvinist principles of self-discipline. This underpinned a set of morals, which scorned the celebration of material objects in favour of a greater spiritual cause.

So in essence, on one hand, the painting celebrates the finest wares, while on the other, also retains its dignity by moralising about the fleeting nature of wealth. By doing so, it appeals on two levels.

As an aside, the inclusion of the decanter is an interesting one as these are fairly uncommon. Rigaree glass is created via a process of crimping and the forms are hand-blown. The one we see here is probably Dutch and dates to the 18th century.

The painting is held within a splendid 19th-century frame with scroll and foliate decoration.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 42” x 24” / 107cm x 61cm
Year of creation: c. 1830
Condition: Artwork presents well. It’s generally a dark painting. Craquelure but the paint is stable. Frame with some wear.

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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