Adriaen van Utrecht was active primarily in Antwerp, where his pantry scenes, farmyards, fish markets, game pieces, and other diverse still lifes earned him international renown, resulting in commissions from Philip IV of Spain, the Prince of Orange, and the Emperor of Germany. Influenced by the abundant displays of Frans Snyders, Van Utrecht's art is decisively Baroque in its conception, often featuring sweeping curtains or drapes – as in the present work – or background vistas to add movement and depth. Along with Snyders, he is often credited as an important early proponent of the pronkstilleven genre, in which a richly diverse array of animals, dead game, objects, flowers and people are arranged to convey a sense of exuberance and bounty. Van Utrecht's use of chiaroscuro also reveals the influence of proto-Baroque Italian painters like Caravaggio, while his preference for warm earthen tones – such as the grey-green that dominates the present composition – situates his art firmly north of the Alps.
This bold, dramatic image – previously unpublished and not seen in public since 1935 – is an important addition to Van Utrecht's oeuvre. Painted in lush green tones applied with thick, confident brushwork, the fruits and vegetables are clearly the focus of the scene: from the crisp peas hanging from their stems, to the wilted leaves of the artichoke plants, to the remarkably profuse cabbages at right, there can be no question that the artist took great pride in his masterful depiction of the various greeneries.
At least five other versions of the present composition -- all of inferior quality and all featuring variations to the foreground still-life -- are recorded, including works at Pommersfelden (Graf von Schönborn'schse Kunstsammlungen) and at Dresden (Gemäldegalerie). Until now no original, autograph version of this composition by Van Utrecht had been discovered, and we are grateful to Fred Meijer of the RKD, The Hague, who has confirmed the attribution to Van Utrecht on the basis of firsthand inspection. Mr. Meijer has also suggested that this could well be the prototype for all the other known versions, and has a proposed a date in the artist's early period, c. 1630.
Van Utrecht regularly collaborated with other Antwerp painters – many of whom had worked in the studio of Peter Paul Rubens – such as Jacob Jordaens, David Teniers II, Gerard Seghers, Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert, and Theodoor Rombouts. It is likely that the present work is an example of such collaboration and that the figures, though executed in a style that is utterly cohesive with the still life around them, are attributable to a second hand. The figures in the Pommersfelden version have variously been given to Jordaens and Bosschaert, but those here have been convincingly attributed to Theodoor Rombouts by Ben van Beneden of the Rubenshuis, Antwerp, to whom we are grateful. Rombouts worked with Van Utrecht on several occasions during this period, as evidenced by works such as the Kitchen Scene now in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, also datable to the early 1630s.
By the mid-19th century, the present canvas was in the collection of the Marqués de Remisa in Madrid. This magnificent collection, assembled by the Catalan financier and aristocrat Caspar de Remisa y Miarons (1784-1847), first Marqués de Remisa, was housed in a palace at Carabanchel and included important works by Velazquez, Murillo, Meléndez, and Zurbarán, to name a few. Works from this collection can now be found in museums around the world, including the Prado in Madrid and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Remisa inventory inscription, which reads '174. M. de. R.' can still be seen in the lower right corner of the present canvas.