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Roelof Koets (active Haarlem 1627-1654)
Specified lots (sold and unsold) marked with a fil… Read more
Roelof Koets (active Haarlem 1627-1654)

A banquet with cheese and fruit on pewter plates, a basket of grapes, apples in a Wan-Li Kraak porcelain bowl, and bread and glasses on a draped table

Roelof Koets (active Haarlem 1627-1654)
A banquet with cheese and fruit on pewter plates, a basket of grapes, apples in a Wan-Li Kraak porcelain bowl, and bread and glasses on a draped table
oil on panel
29 ¼ x 48 in. (74.3 x 122 cm.)
with Galerie Arthur de Heuvel, Brussels, 1961.
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Lot Essay

In the 17th-century culinary culture of the Dutch aristocracy and patrician middle classes, banquets consisted of up to nine courses and always concluded with dessert. Arrangements like the present, which Ingvar Bergström classified as ontbijtes, or ‘breakfast still-lifes’, were both displays of gastronomic luxury and symbols of religious ideas. Koets follows a tradition established by Nicolaes Gillis, Floris van Dyck and Floris Gerritsz. van Schooten, which saw the genre flourish in centres like Haarlem, Antwerp and Frankfort-on-the-Main at the beginning of the 17th century. All artists followed a compositional principle that showed a table parallel to the horizontal edges of a picture, carefully arranged with damask tablecloths, their horizontal creases running parallel to the back of the scene. Individually observed objects were reproduced in local colours, with a level of detail verging on plasticity, displayed in a diffused and even light, the damask designs so clearly rendered that they could often be referenced as patterns for weaving.

As per the etiquette of Dutch society, fruit, nuts and confectionary were part of the dessert, with cheese also served as a part of this course. Like Gills and van Dijck, Koets builds a pyramid of cheese in many layers and colours, rendering the irregular traces of cuts with great accuracy. Symbolically, the dairy product was regarded as Lenten fare particularly among Protestants and described by the Dutch poet Jacob Westerbaen as ‘a metaphor of the powerful flavour of a simple repast’. In the present picture, further religious allusions are made in the bread and wine, which act as a reminder of the Eucharist.

Koets’s layered composition reflects Baroque table conventions in which food in disarray is a suggestion of ongoing movement, while also showing the influence of early still-lifes, which raised each object into view so as to not obscure it by other elements. Every item thus remains optically intact and was regarded by both artists and patrons as too precious to be removed from view simply for the sake of aesthetics.

We are grateful to Fred Meijer of the RKD, The Hague, for proposing the attribution to Roelof Koets on the basis of photographs and dating the picture to his early career.

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