Described in 1986 as the banquet of a group of archers, this fascinating early panel actually depicts the banquet of members of various craft guilds, perhaps on the occasion of the archery competition depicted in the lower register. The implements on the wall behind the banqueting table in the upper register are the symbols of the various guilds whose representatives are in attendance. Amongst them, at the upper right, are the arms of used for the Guild of Saint Luke (the traditional name for guilds of painters and other artists) throughout Europe, three shields Argent on a field Azure; according to one tradition these arms had been granted to all painters by Emperor Maximilian I in honour of Albrecht D rer, but in fact their use probably stretches even further (see A. Grenfer,Zunft-Wappen und Handwerker-Insignien, 1889, pp. 59-63; reprinted Niederwalluf bei Wiesbaden, 1971). The three fish, at upper right, formerly misinterpreted as the coat-of-arms of Enkhuizen (three herrings), is more likely to be the emblem of a guild of fishermen or fishmongers such as the Ommelandvaarders or Schonevaardersgilde, weavers, carpenters and goldsmiths are amongst the other trades represented.
We are grateful to Jan van Helmont for his advice on the guild symbols and to Jan Piet Filedt Kok for suggesting a dating of circa 1520-1530 and noting a compositional similarity of the banqueting scene to the Banquet of the Heren van Liere of Antwerp (dated 1523; Utrecht, Centraal Museum, inv. no. 6860), which shows a similarly draped table on a tiled floor, with two symmetrically-placed windows in the wall behind. The attribution of the present panel, which may lie either in the Northern or the Southern Netherlands, depends on the identification of the town whose guilds are assembled; Enkhuizen, for example, had no Guild of Saint Luke. The archery competition in the lower register, which led to the picture being placed in the tradition of Schuttersmaaltijd (group portraits of archery companies at table) such as Cornelis Anthonisz.'s 1533 portrait in the Historisch Museum, Amsterdam, presumably depicts representatives of the various guilds vying for the prizes depicted on the targets, including different cuts of meat or a flagon of beer. This extraordinary depiction may have been commissioned to commemorate a specific event for a town hall or guild assembly room, and stands in a long line of representations of civic bodies which stretches from works like the Anthonisz. to include, in the seventeenth century, works by Frans Hals and Rembrandt - most famously,The Night Watch (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum).