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3

Abundance

poses lhal for individuals, and for society at large, lhe utilis.rliorr of wealth in the pursuil of pleasure works to the economic 1iootI of all. The problem posed by wealth is now [hal of finding tlr, besl which is to say at Lhe same lime the mosl plersrrr.rl,l,'

In the induslrialised countries we are used to overproduction. We have made societies of abundance since al leas[ the time of lhe Industrial Revolution. So many generalions have passed
in which condiLions of oversupply have prevailed that iL requires a certain cullural dislocation to think back to the period when overabundance was something historically new or [o think outwards towards the non-induslrialised or semi-industrialised counlries of the Third World loday. Perhaps one can draw a dislinc[ion between abundance before and afler industrialisalion. ln pre or proto-indus[rial societies, luxury is inseparable from ideas of prodigality and waste. For as long as societies and economies are inexorably limited in their growth, bound to agrarian cycles of famine and plenty, and incapable of generating lhe surplus necessary lo finance the developmenl of industry, Lhe defleclion of surplus wealth into luxury and display represents an authentrc destrucfion of goods, a sheer squandenng of resources whose bounds cannol be increased.' In Europe, the luxury of the sncien rigime is the brillianl, irralional and anti economic burn up of a surplus thal cannot and will nol grow. As a resull. the sncien rlgrne's understanding of luxury is bound up with a discourse lhal measures sufficiency and insufficiency by a standard of ethics. Bernard de Mandeville's insight, in Tre Fabb of the Bees G7t a,), into the economic and social usefulness of luxury ('PrivaLe Vices, Publick Benefits') represented, in Lhe ancien rigime, a dangerous and perverse poinl of view, one that deeply shocked Mandeville's contemporaries. But with industrialisation lhe old discourse of ethics, which measures wealth according [o moral conducL, is obliged to co-exist alongside a newer perception which substitu[es for the tem 'luxury' lhe term 'alfluence' 'Luxury' can never shed its ties to ils medieval past, to lhe idea of psychonache, the battle of the soul against lhe tlcadly sins, lururia, supcrbia, uanagloria, uoluptas, cupiditas. 'Allltrcncc'is neulral on lhis subject, rt transfers the phenomenon ol srrrIltrs woal{h frort cthics to acsIhclics. Afflut'r'tcc .rss.rnr,'s llr,rl crlrt'rrtlilrrrc is rroi .r rr,rtlt'r oJ nror.rls lrrrt ol siylc It Plo

and the most profitable palhs and patterns of expenrlitrrrr' One can think of nineleenth-century Paris as an enormous sor i,r machine, whose goal is to recycle surplus weallh back into tlr, economy lhrough a manipulation of desire that knows rr,, obstruc[ion lrom moral categories: [he new architcctLrrL ,'l
pleasure, the boulevards and arcades, the deparLment
sLor t s

.rn,l

the Universal Exposi[ion, the new spaces of entertainmt'nl,

llr.

caf6s and lhe race-[racks and [he theatres, all these instlLrrrr, nl: of aftluence have as their aim [he harnessing of pleasurc to ,,,rr sumption, conceived now as an integral and indispensirLrlt l'.'rl of the general economy. Industrialisation makes it impossible any longer fo dislirrltuislr

with certainty be[ween luxury and necessily,

anc{

tlrt'

,,1,1

polarily of dearth and surfeit dissolves. Aesthelic cullurc, wlri, lr now takes up the slack from ethical culture, resolves tht' plrrl'lcrr of overproduclion by indicating general models for m.rrr.rliirrli [he superabundance of goods. Such models exisl al .rll srxi.rl levels, and are subjecL Lo radical change. Wilh [hc Vit Iori.rrr', for example, the interior of lhe house consists of lootrrs t t.t tr t tr t,', wilh objects, the space divided and subdivided so as lo rr rll i1'11 the available places for the display of innrrnrt'r.rl,l, w,,rl,lly goods; walls are given elaborately delailccl r I , I i , 'rr,l covered with densely patterned wallpaper, for ( I \' ( I I ('l't, ,l complex frames and casings are found, in it 1lt rr, r.rl lt,,tt',,,,r'trt which copes with the problem of overpr-oc{ttcti,,rr I' v ,11' , 'r I ' rrry i it inLo Lhe household, or by allowing lhc lrotrsc to l',,rl',,,rI',,I by commodities and their profusion. T[rc ttr,xl, rrrr:'l lr,'rr", ,'1'l' for the opposite solution: instead of spacc strl,,lir'i,l,,l l,' ',,.,1 ,' endless local niches for lhe display ol posst'ssi'rr", llr, l' rrrr, between compartments of space are [hrowtr ,1,'tvrr ,rrr,l 1',,,,' re-uniftes in an open plan bounded by whitt',ttt,l , rrr1'lt r'.,11' the modernisl interior resolves the prol,lcrrr ,rl , r'' ' r I ' r , , r , lr,,rr by carving oul from the general prolusiotr .r st't Irr,l,,l , rrr1'trrr, lhal marks an escape from lhe lecrling artrl st't llrrrrli ;,,','l ,,1 comnroclitics ThcvrsibrlilyoIgrx)dsb(\r)r]r('s.r)r'rrrl',rrr'r '.rr'.l .rn,l rrrLrsi h'scrccnc.], rrlkinli ol ,.trlin.try sl,r,,' l,,r ,. rr,,1,1, ,r v.rr,trtl sl,t11r'sLtttotrn,lc,l lry r , t , t I i ,1, r, rr r,. llr,, , l,rr I ,' ,,,:,,,r,,rr,, r'vlrr, l',,,,,1i,.1'1.'v,,1.,,,'rltr,:;trrl.rrr,rl,r'llr,"rrrr,,, ,', ',,
r

rr

rr r

rr

rrr

i II

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rrr

lj

Ciorgio

Morandi, SLi Life


wiLh BoltLes anrj Tases Museum

Boymans-van Beuningen,

Rotlerdam

wealth of lrance, or which in contemporary Japan kep[ half the population of Edo working to supply lhe needs of lhe Japanese nobiliLy.a The Nelherlands was no less lacking in lhe [raditions of civic munificence lhat made brilliant the Ilalian city slates: the outlay on its [own halls and municipa] offices is meagre by Florentine or Venetian slandards. And lhe Reformalion had ended the power of the Church to divert nalional wealth into its own coffers and its own programmes of artistic palronage As Simon Schama has shown in his remarkable work on the Netherlands in lhe sevenleenth century, Dutch society was in the curious posilion of having acquired an immense surplus of national weallh, but with few culbural traditons that permilted ils expenditure.' Those lraditions concerning the uses of surplus wealth which it did possess dated from its immediale pasL, the ancienl discourses on wealth whrch inlerpreted riches through the categories of morality; perhaps it is lhe absence of altema[ives that accounls for the persistence and centrality of bhe ethical discourse on wealth lhrough to the close of the period of Dulch economic ascendancy, and nol least in painting.

:,1,.rtt vibraie wilh its own emptiness.2 Modemist still life knows llris spirct' well, [he work of Morandi (a89o a964) is made up

,rl sutlr vibrations in vacancy, of'seeing solid in void and void rrr sr,litl', and of inlerresonating intervals eventually so fine that il i.rkcs l leng[hy viewing to analyse their discriminations (illus. i i) I lrt' lilsl European socie[y to experience the problem ol massivc oversupply is that of Lhe Netherlands, in the period of ifs .rsct,nclancy from 16o8 (when the Netherlands broke from 51,.rnish rule) until the late r66os, when the commercial edge lrr'1i.rn lo be lost to rival powers, Britain in particular.' During llris pcriod lhe Netherlands became the richesl nation the !{r'stcrn world had yet seen. Its economy was slill pre-industrial, ,r l,rirnarily commercial empire deriving its immense wealth from I r ,rr k,, its near monopoly on European shipping, its colonial posrlssions in lhe Easl and West Indies, the success of its banks ,rrrrl slocl< cxchange in Amsterdam, and lhe energy of its small 1'o1,rrl.rlion As a pre industrial nation, the Dutch did not yet l,osst,ss lhcr lull machinery for integrating consumption into the 1i,,n,'r'.rl ccorrrrny, as would become standard wilh the Industrial lilvolution llrrt cqually fhey lacked the mechanisms for the ,rlrs,rrpliorr ,,i s,-rrF lus wi,allh possessed by other societies, both rrr:ritlL' .rrrrl otrlsick liuropc For onc thrng, lhe Nelhcrlands pos ,,,,r,,,,1 rr,,r'sl,rlrlislrt'tl tr,rtlilions ol court lil.t', oi thc fypc that rr,,,rrl,l rr,rl', Vcrs.rrllt's sLttlr,t t , r - , t t t I lor Lltc srtrltltts
r

The outlines of this tradi[ional interpretalion are slarkly evident in a work by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (c. r5z5 1569), The Bsttle beLween Carniual anrl Lent (t559; illus. :+). The agricultural cycle has noI yel developed to the poinl where it generates a permanent, year round surplus: its rhythm is seasonal, and the difference between seasons of shorlage and of plenty can be managed locally. The population can coPe with both
deprivalion and excess by regulating its communai expenditure; lhe soluLion to the seasonal fluctuation of resources is social

r ,r j

I r

t r

'

observation of the calendar. Feast days of Rabelaisian indulgence, followed by grey periods of abstinence, can mop up the brief surplus and slrelch [hings over the lean limes On lhe cart supporting the figure of Lenl are pretzels and a few dry loaves of bread; Lent's jousting spear is a griddle plate decked with two miserable looking herring. Opposile Lent, astride his cask, sits Carnival, armed wilh a roasting skewer and crowned wilh a pie, while behind him a woman si[s furiously nraking 1-rlncakes The 'baltle' belween them is simply lhe nronrcrrt ol MarJi Clras when Carnjval has ils brief reign, altcr wlrir lr tlrc riliours oi Lenl iake over." fhe yeal is rcgtrlltcd I'y .r, y, [ ,,] i,r,ltrl1',t'rrtc.rtrd r.rliotrittg which ctlsr'rlt's tll,rt tlrc t.rrill s lrrrl.,,rr, r",'r'nly sl,tt'.ttl, wltttlrct trowcllirrli pilcs ol lootl orrlo llrr ltr,,,rnrrl, l,,r'rr,lsor,kirrliorrl .t ttl,.tl ,,1 I , r r t I i , I I ' r , , l
r i t . rr
r r

'

tempt? There are traces of both. Brueghel presents his figures of botched humanily, close lo a par with lhe animal life lhat lives so close by; deformed, unlovely in its every movemenl, ruled by its appetites, incapable of aspiration or achieveas a kind

menl.

condescension and even class halred.

humanity seen through lhe eyes of class Al the same time, however, there is the possibilily that this life of appetite and creaLurely

I[ is

dependence may be presented in lhe image as a universal slaLe. one which as much concerns the superior viewing class as il does its peasant figures; there is intimalion that al a certain level

of existence, namely thal of hunger and food, all people are equally comic and degraded.s In the caricature of this pre
humanity there is a bruth which cannoL be eradicated from any class, however much it refines its table and complicales its aes thetic culture, that crealureliness is nol a voluntary condition. All of Brueghel's signs of class condescension and anLipa[hy are replayed here in another key, the more the ftgures are presented as an alien class, far below on the chain of social being, the grealer Lhe shock of recognising in them fhe lineaments of a common humanity and [he greaLer the need for adminislering lhat shock. Brueghel reverses lhe direction of I[alian painting,

why lhe ethical approach lo the phenomena of rr,,',1 and abundance could be so persuasive in lhis agrarian r,vorlcl, the rnargins between loo little and too much are suffi, i,'nily slight for a single term to be enough Lo even Lhem out: ,r1,1,ctile l-he welfare of the society depends on its capacity to sulrrril lo a general morality of consumption and abstinence. Ancl it is evrdently a corr.munal ethic rather [han a private one. Wlrt'n abundance comes, it is that of the land, for lhe people wlr,r livc from the land; a banquet of lhe world, rather lhan
( )nc can see

34

Pieter Brueghel

lheEldcr, The Battle


hefween Carnipal

Kunsthislorisches Museum, Vienna,

with its urge lo make lhe human image sublime; there is deliber ate counter sublimation, a plunging of vision downwards towards an image of humanily thal insults grandeur and erases
dis[inction.

tlrr' .rfflucnce of private tables.T Much of the complexily in Dutch

Wealth separa[es humanily into classes, and among olher things Brueghel's painting is an exact record of class division: bhe superior viewing-class peers down through the painLing at the diminutive insect life of the peasantry far below. They are ridiculous, but happy; [here is even a sense of bucolic charm
in bheir gross communal life. Since theirs is in any event a robust, Netherlandish culture, lhe spiril of paLriotism can tum a blind eye to its weakness - and solidarity wi[h the lower ranks wjll be necessary when it comes to dislodging lhe rule of Spain.e Brueghel's image does everything that might flatter a goveming cllss into convittion of its ovrn superiority and right Io or",r"" a population which, though absurd and unruly, at leasl presents no threal fo its own exislence. Bul at lhe same timc Br.LrclShcl sLrlfrcicnily r.nters inlo the authentic spiril of clrniv.rl, wlrir Ir l,,r ils l,rrcl tltrr.ttion crases social dislincti()n.rrrrl ,rl,olislrcs sorr,rl lrr, r,rr,lry, llt,tl lrorr lh' Iicttrrt'ol cl.tss rlrvisiorr .rrr,l r,rnl, llr,,rl ,'rrt, rl , .rrr,,llrr I'rr lrrrr', ol llrc rl,rwrw,rrrl llvr'llrr1; ,,1 lrrrrrr,rrr

,,lill lifc will come from the collision between this lraditional
,rrrrl t

onmunity-based elhic, revolving round shared wealth and

1',,vcrry, and lhe private ethic


1,r

of lhe

individual owner of

opt'r Iy.

Ilui ihc rnoral perception presenl in Brueghel's image goes

rllrcr LIct'pcr lhan the primary issue, the baltle between ausberity lt would be inleresting to know how [he peasanlry ,I f it Lcrl ir the battle might have responded to their represcnr
,

,rrr,l 11r'ct't1

l.rli,rrr by llrrrcghcl, yet lhc painling is hardly destincd for lhc lr,rrrscs rrl tlrt'figLrres it shows, bLrt ftlr I srtpcritlr class; itnd whai rlrrr,rins rtntctl,tirr (ritlrli, so) is tIIt'irrI1IIict1 .rttiltrrlc ol- tll'rI 'lrtrqlt, r',l.rssl,rtnr,rr,ls lltL l't',rs,rrrls lllltltst lvt s Allrriirrtt,or torr

ily, .rr(l its cqualily in the face of need. This is the subtlety and irrr lLrsivt,ncss of vision rn the Battle, and of the traditional dis( our s(,

j6

Pieter de

()n weallh that comes to Dutch painting from its immedi-

Hooch, The Carcl P/ayers. Mus6e du


Louvre, Paris.

,rlr' l).rst. It recognises and affirms both social impulses , a worldly ,rr knrrwlctlgement of class separation co-exists with a creaturelin('ss llr.lt turns onto class aspiration and class difference a mockirrli I.rrrghter of lhe earlh. was hardly possible for such

It

tr,rrlitional wisdom, rooted in the long historical experience of .r11r'.rrian condi[ions, to survive bhe massive accumulation of

,.rpital lhat took place in the Nebherlands in the seventeenth r t,ntr.rry. Its conceplion of human need and appetite is too rooted irr thc seasonal cycles of shortage and surPlus to survive into ,rrr t,coromy where surplus makes the quantum leap into Permant'nt affluence and plenty. Nevertheless, in a culture singularly l,rcking in developed insLibutions of luxury the ethical discourse orr wealth enjoyed a long afterlife, into conditions remote from ils orrgins and in a sense hostile to its survival.

For the mounting tide of capital, the Netherlands could provide only one major outlet: domestic space. And the transforma-

tions of the Dutch interior in this period are nothing short of spec[acular. Abroad, the stereotype of the Dutch was 'frugal to an eggshell', Josiah Child refened lo 'their parsimonious and thrifty living which is so extraordinary that a merchant of one hundred lhousand pounds estate will scarce spend so much per annum as one of fifteen hundred pounds estate in London.''o Bul according lo Mandeville, who knew them better, the Dutch
are exlravagant

to folly. ln other counLries you may meel

with stalely courts and palaces, which nobody can expect in a commonwealth where so much equality is observed as
there is in Holland; bul in all Europe you shall ftnd no private buildings so sumpluously magnificent as a great many of the merchants'and other gentlemen's houses are in Amsterdam,

and in some of the greal cities of that small province, ancl in the generality of those lhat build there, Iay out r glcrtt'r' pnrporliorr of thcir eslatcs on tlrc houst's llrt'y tlwcll irr llr,rrr .rny pcopll' Lrpon tlrc carth.r
I

N,rl or,rl t i,rllr,,

y,

Ir l),rinlirrl'\ ()l llr(' ro5(rs lry I'iclt'r'rl| ll,',x lr (i(r.',) r()tl,l) ',rrt' r.lill r,r'r,s llrc lr,rr lr ,ri ,rlrsllnrirrrlr lir,rtrti ',trrr;'ll lrltr,.

rrlrrl, rr'.rslrt,rl w:llls, few objects on display; clobhes are modest, ,rr,l l', r:,,,n.rl rcccssories unobtrusive (illus. :f). In de Hooch's Ilrt r ttrl l'ltttrrs, from the r67os (illus. 56), the floor is no longer r r,r,1, ,,1 lrlls bul of marble inlay; whitewashed walls have given r",rr 1,, 11r,lcl Spanish lealher. The rug draped over the table is ,r ,,'slly Ncar Eastem import; the fireplace is flanked with full l, ,r11llr rn.rrble columns, and the woman next to il wears a bril Ir,rrrl r osfume rn the new French style, complete with pearl ear
,,

and worth studying and sketching. The final painting is a gather-

,1is

I)rrtch still life painting is a dialogue belween this newly ,rlllrrcnl society and its material possessions. Il involves the rt lltttion of wealth back lo the socieby which produced it, a clI ction lhal en[ails lhe expression of how the phenomenon ,rl 1,11111y is to be viewed and understood. Perhaps one may l,. rtrn wiih a fairly simple case, thal of flower painting. Whab r,, irrrurcdialely slriking in lhe Bouquet in q Niche by Ambrosius li, rst lracrf (ry73 t6zr; illus. 49) is that while there is a sense ,,1 .rl,rrrdance the vase could scarcely hold one stem more llrc ,rbundance is, surprisingly. not that of nature There is ,r rrol,rble absence, here and throughout the tradilion of Dutch ll.wr'r' pairrling, of flowers that are wild." When wild flowers ,'rt ctrl and taken indoors, one of the cultural meanings of the l,otrrlrrcl can concern the generosity of nalure in general, and llrc particular form which that generosity takes at certain times ,,1 tlrc yc'ar and in certain places. In the garden paintings at I'orrpcii, for example, one sees represenled on the walls exaclly tlrc l.lowers and lrees which one would find in the same landscape l,xl,ry,olcander, Iemon, olive, salvia.l' The result is an essenlr.rlly prstoral vrew of nalure and of man's place wilhin nature: ,r:. in the Xania t of Philoslratus, it is a question of gathering I lrc plcn ty which nature produces by itself, of gratefully garnerrrr1l wlrat is already provided - lhe honey, figs and grapes which rr',1rrirt, rro cullural work or supervison. Du[ch flower paintings r( n()n-pastoral and even anti pasloral in thal lhe flowers ,lnst'n lor tlcpiction are those which require for their exislence ,r lrililr lcvcl oI horlicultural sophislication. They are nol pastoral l,rrl ll( ()r8ic. il is all work. The paintrngs do not lead the mind lo .rssor i.rLiorrs wilh a parlicular season: on the contrary, they r('rrs1,1q1111115ly yol<c logclher variclics that flourish at clrfferc'nt lrrrr.s.l yc.tr. lhc prairlcrs arc closcly clt'pt'rttlent on lhcir corl l.rr lr rrr {lrr'1irt',ri lrolirnir'.rl tt'nttt's,,rtrcl it is ilorrr tlrc ll.rrtlcttcts llr,rl IIrr'I,,tittIct: lr',rttt wlrcrr.r |l.rrlrttrl,tr llowct ts,rl,oLri lrrl,loorrr,

'

and elaborate coiffure."

ing logelher of oflen many separale studies, a miscellany that could never exist or have exisled in nature. One detects here a certain refusal of natural time and of seasonality that cuts bhe paintings off from a whole poLential lyric regisLer All ihe flowers in the Boschaert exist at precisely lhe same moment in their life cycle, when their bloom becomes perfecl The simullaneous perfeclion of so many flowers from different seasons banishes the dimension of time and breaks [he bond between man and the cycles of nature. Which is exactly the point: what is being explored is the power of technique (first of horticullure, then of painting) to outstrip the limiLations of the natural world. Boschaert's bouquet is equally opposed to the idea of lhe locus amoetus, the place on earth which climate, or the gods, particu Iarly favour, no Arcadia or Vale of Tempe will be found. One difference between the medieval herbals and the compendia of botanists such as Clusius or Johan van Hoogelande is lhat while lhe plants of the herbalisLs remain within the orbit of lhe clois[er, lhe planLs of lhe Dutch botanists are drawn from a vast colonial network: Lhe lulip, new star of the Dutch gardens, is only the latest arrival, from Turkey." Though one slill sees the medieval flowers, iris, lily and rose, lhe flowers of Mary and of [he Annunciation,lu Lhese now have to make room for lhe exotics - dahlias Irom Mexico, fritillaries from Persia. The space of the vase draws on enormous distances; the idea of a particular place, and of man as limited by space, is negaled. When combined with the feeling of seasonalily, the feeling of locality points to hurnan frailly, and lhe boundaries of space and time lhal frame human life; increasing lhe viewer's awareness of [hal frame of limilation can conslitute a whole didacfic dimension of flower arrangement, as it does in fapanese lkebana. Conversely, when the frame work of space and time is effectively neutralised, [here is an elevation of human powers over creatural limita[ion: in the paintings of de Gheyn and Boschaert lurks a certain Faustian ambi[ion. Belween the bouquet and lhe landscape behind il, rrcr

conneclion can be discovered (illus.49); what lhe landscap't' pro vides inslead is exactllz lhe idea of a space lhal is cxpitnsivc and limilless, yet can be nasLered by a prospcct ; ,rt rtl llrt' lLr r I lrt -flrt slt.ttt ir rttrlttl,r'l tl idc.r olr sucL{crr lcap frorn farkr ttt'ar ilrc iLrwcrs lly to tlris vitst'lrortt nt.tttv l.'tt,l. An,l il ir,,lr"lrll,,l ,rll llrr' lirr',rlcr sl)'r(ts .rc rotrtt'ttIr,tIlrI trt llrr" ,,rr, ,,\( r.r)irr :,1,,rrc llrn n orr, ,rl llt, r r r r ) I i ,'1 llr, ',l,, ll ;', r,lr, ,l ,,rr llr,'
r

rr' ,r

lr.rllit'ol tlrc niche,lhe smaller shell \s neritq uersicolor (from the Wr"rl lrrrlics), and lhe larger one murer endioia (ftom the East lrrrlics) '' fhe shells compress into Lheir narrow ledge the space ol lrryo r'onfinenLs, and the oceanic distances belween them. And
jux' wL' rlo not fail to grasp the point, Boschaert is careful to l,r1'ost,the profile of the shell on lhe right against the distanb visl.r bcyond ib: what is vast (promontory, archipelago) is rrriniah.rrised and dwarfed by what is small, in a play of interup lions of scale and space that ends in complete dislocation, the .rl,olition of place. No less slriking than the ban on wild flowers is the convention whcreby flowers lend not to be repeated. This is not an absolute rrrlc, and it can be broken, for example, in order bo highlight rlrtrin variations within a single strain, or to demonslrate lhe w.ry in which the petals of a particular flower open out, or to slrow Lhe same flower in different profiles. BuL certainly in comgrar ison with our own conception of flower arrangement, there is a resolute avoidance of mass, accumulations of lhe same v,rr icty hold no interest. Again, this qualifies the impression of ,rl,lrnclance one may initially receive. What engages the eye is llrc clifference between flowers, at the levels of their architeclure ,rrrd colour strains; what is soughL is not abundance but lhe Spt'cimen, viewed through the lens of scientific naturalism. Although the complex botanical descriptions of Linnaeus lie a r cnlury ahead, already the flowers are subject to investigation by laxonomic inlelligence, attuned to the construction of the llower's identity through its differences from other specimens. I ht' repelilion of flowers would be redundant here, representing ,rs il would no positive increase in information. Of particular intcrest are the differences that can be produced by cultivation within bhe same botanical family, and flower painlings are rr,rgnctrcally drawn lo strains that can be persuaded lo produce rrnprccliclable variations (in certain cases, Dutch flower paintings .rrc litt'rally botanical porlraits of the rare varieties achieved llrroLrgh forcing).13 Which explains something of the curiously il.riLcnt'cl space lhat prevails, especially in the first decades of llrt' st,vcnleenth cenlury. It is a space of diagrammatic clarity, ol I I /r / . This is the reason why flowers. shells and specimens rrl irrscct or saurian life enter into lhe same scene (with, [o our ,'ycs, such surrcal rcsulls). AII are subjecl of the labour oI classilir .rliorr, in arr crr of nrlLrral hiskrry wlrcn laxonomy is tht' 'l his is rtot, t L rr nin.r nt rrrorlc r'I protlttcinll scicntific l<trow ltr{1ic. "'
r,
ri
r

17 RachelRuysch,
I

lnbet Still Lile oledo Museum of

Art, Ohio

of course, to deny the persistence in Dutch flower paintings of the Renaissance mode which sees in such things as butterflies and dragonflies emblems of human ephemerality - or sees in the common housefly, making its way across the ledge in Boschaert's painLing, a reminder of the corruption bhat mortal flesh is heir to. As the work of Foucault emphasises, several modes of knowledge production can co-exist in a single era (and a single work). But Dutch flower painting takes its place in thc same

I r

rr

theoretical space which also produced the Krrrr-si- rtrtrl Wunderkumnem, the ftrst museums, those cabincts oI nrtttr.rl
curiosities whose function was to produce knowlcclgc [,y
,tt

t,ty

ing objecls in a taxonomic or diagramrratic s1,atr',lt'si1',rrcrl lt, lt'vrirl valiatiotr lg.rinsl thc bacl<l3roLrntl ol- tttttlt't ly it t1i :,1r ttt Ittrt ,rrrrl tylrr"ro li()r *('v('nt(\,nllr ct'ntrrry l)rrlrlr r,,ll,,l,'r"

l','rrr)t,,ris clcsctndants of the manic imperial collectors at the , , rrrrl,r ol Vicnna and Prague'zl shells, scienfific cu osities and l',rrrr{irrtis .rll inhabit lhe same labular and panoptic space (in rvlrr, lr. ,,nc clay, an art hislory will develop)." liirr.rlly, flower paintings exisl in economic space, or rather tlrcy inhabrt several economic spaces at once. The first of these r.; ilr Lrotanrcal garden, the paintings' immediate source. Origrr r,r lly dcveloped through the patronage of the European courts, 1,, 'l,rnical gardens took a long time to lose their association with r,,y.rl and state largesse (still alive, for instance, at Kew or the ( lrllsea Flower Show). The conslruction of such gardens was ,rn Lrndertaking so colossal that only a prince or the state could lir,l the resources lo fund iL, and what such pa[ronage brought willr it was a symbolic association be[ween horbiculture and 1,,'litical power that conferred on Dutch flower painting a high r,,rlrrc of social prestige (and the supporters of the earliest flower lr.rintcrs were decidedly more courtly than bourgeois).'3 The .,r'rrrncl economic space is that of speculation of lhe connection l,t'twccn flowers and actual cash, as opposed lo their value as 'syrrbolic capital'. Much has been written on the subject of the lirr',rt tr-rlip mania which gripped the Netherlands in the r6zos, ,rntl thc slory will nol be rehearsed here.'a Bul the taste for llowcr painting is closely involved with fhe market's focus on r,rrilics, and what the markel valued, lhe painters also pursued ll.rnrboyance and complexity of colouc irregular stripes and rr.rll< ings, flowers with a high rale of variation: tulips, hyacinths. roscs, carnations. Unlike, for example, Spanish sLill life, Dutch .rlill lifc lends to see in the objects depicted a source of value lrrr tlrc painting itself, and the value of the one passes inlo the ,rilrcr; in the case of flowers, and tulips above all, one is not ,it',rlirrg with indifferenL or value-free subject-malter, but prer iotrs iiems which, at the height of the lulip and hyacinth manias, r.v,'r'r'changing hands for very serious money indeed. The third lrorrorric space is that of painting itself. Flower painting is Lrlrorrr inlcnsive to a degree thaf exceeds other still life genres ,;lrorI cuts are technically impossible.'s As a result, it can flourish' ,'rrly wlrcn lhe demand for painting is sufficiently buoyant to I'r'rrrrrt Ihc' r]ccessary and considerable outlay for Lhe painter's T.rlrrrrr l" WhaI Lhe paintings therefore display, al a level distinct lrorr llrt'ir con[cnl, is [hesheerskrlland cffortof theirproduction, ,rrrtl llrc cronorric valrrc.rnd invcslrncnt which lhrs rcprcst'nls I lrirr r orrlrl lr trrnsirlcr'.tl'lt', csptti.rlly witlr tlti' lirsl 1it'rrt.r,rIiorr

l,$ Balthasar van lcr Ast, Sli/i rrlz


rli//r 5/Lells Museum
lloymans van
Il( Lrnrngen,

lioltordam.

ol flower painters, who necessarily looked to [he nobility as the only class able to afford Lheir work. For a picture by Boschaerl that displayed no less than sevenLy different lypes of flower, the Cupbearer to the King was prepared, in 1611, to part with rooo guilders - a small fortune at the time.'7 The flower pictures reveal a good deal about the ways in which the Dutch viewed and undersLood the affluence fheir culture was able to produce. The feeling is evidenl lhal not much is owed to nature. At Pompeii there exists a small wall painbing ('Flora') of a woman seen from behind. walking with a baskeL of flowers; it is an image that implies relaxation, and a harmony between natural and human beauty nothing could be further from the Dutch flower pictures. The rnotif of the baskel, wilh its suggestion of flow between nature and the domestic inLerior, is comparatively rare; and one noles, too, the names that the [ulip growers gave lo bheir mosl pized varieties, Semper Augustus, Viceroys, Admirals, Generals as though the flowers embodied some ideal of male power.'u Even the shells take on the connotation of craft, existing as they appeared to do on the borderline between nature and art, as a form of'natural artifice', the shells have the look of having been crafted by rnan, and as such are valued.2e Everybhing we see in Boschaert and

rl'

( ilrcyn conres from labour, nothing is accepted as a gift of rr,rturr' 'l'hc labour of horticulture, the forcing of varieties, and llrt'n lhc long hours of the painter's craftsmanship it is as if llrr'v.rluc of lhe flowers were created by human effort alone. l'rotluction, productionl Of new flowers, of knowledge, where nrrture is commodified by market forces, along with human work. In a sense the paintings are the height of luxury and break all

J9

Jan

Vermeer,

The ConcerL. Isabella

Slewart Gardner
Museum, Boston.

tics with utility r what could be more useless than flowers, or Ilower paintings? Yet there is no shortage of good reasons for the painbings' existence: the intrinsic value of the depicted objecls, their worth as scientific specimens, the value of the paintcr's labour, the canvas as a sound financial investment. The painlings build a strong case for themselves without once having lo invoke visual pleasure. Pleasure is disavowed, hidden by prorluclion; what replaces it is strain, effor! and lhe work imperative. 'fhe strain is greatest in the place where the opportunities for pleasure are concentrated, in the prime locus of affluence, Lhe interior of lhe house. In the sevenleenth centur1z the marke[ in luxury goods appears to have been more highly developed in the Nelherlands than in any other European country, The shops in Amsterdam were stuffed wilh Persian rugs, Chinese porcelain, Japanese lacquer, Venetian glass, Spanish taffeta, lLaLian maiolica. Fokkens's guide to Amslerdam, a sorL of shopper's handbook, positively salivates on reaching the llerengracht:
Within, the houses are full of priceless omaments so that they seem more like royal palaces than the houses of merchants, many of them with splendid marble and alabaster columns, floors inlaid with gold, and the rooms hung with valuable tapestries or gold- and silver-slamped leather worth many [housands of guilders . . . You will also find in these houses valuable household fumishings like painlings and oriental ornaments and decorations so that the value of all these lhings is lruly ines[imable - but perhaps fifty or even a hundrcd thousand.3o 'l hc household in The Concert by Jan Vermeer (r6jz-7s; illus. rc7) does not give much impression of squeamishness concerning rrrnsumplion: in the room before us are assembled finely crafted ch,rils, a harpsichord painted on the underside of the lid, Lwo
sive coslumes of the r66os.31 Yet what is evident in Vermeer's picture is the emphasis on absolute domestic order, the jnlernal harmony of bhe household which is expressed in its musicmaking; it is as though the affluence of bhe house could be justi fied only if domestic virtue kept strict pace wilh prosperity. All surfaces emit signs of vigilant attention - the gleaming pictr-rrc frames and the polished wood of the cello, lhe immaculale cloth ing, the floor scrubbed and pristine (foreign visitors were sur' p sed to 6nd that on entering Dutch houses they were obliged to change their shoes for slippers). Time is used well, making music, and behind the music lies the background of hoLrst'holtl routines managed to efficiency and over efficicncy: Ilrc wt'll ordered Dutch home is a place of constant nronitolinli ,rrrrl ,rl,lrr lion, as though lhc lcast rrcgligcncc of clonrcstit tlrorcs r,lcr, r rnalk oI nror.ll lxrllulion I-krwcvcr thcy rrr,ry lt.rvl lrrrrlli,rrr',1 in Ir',rclitr', in visrt,rl rcPtt'scnl,ttion Ilrc iltlt'tiots rrl lt,'tttlu,rtr'

irrprt'ssivc looking paintrngs, a rare Turkey rug; the floor is lilcd willr rn.rrblc, lnrl Ilrt' worrt'r'r arc wcaring thc rrrrnously cxpt'lr

Pieter Claesz. (tsqy/ 8-166r) ]n Sti Life with Stoneware lug, Wine Glass, Herring and Breqd (i\lus.5o) the meal is a grave and silent affair.33 Its elements are of the simplesl a roll or a loaf of bread, herring, a roemer of wine, a tankard of ale. The pewter plates are unostentatious, and lhe oullay for lhe whole meal is modest. It is consumed alone. Though austere, the meal knows sorne[hing of the pleasures of the table, the feel of a crisp crust of bread, the oily tang of the fish, the refreshing coolness

Lhought of as the crossroads between extremes of virtue and tlcpravrty. Vermeer shows the dream of order, Jan Steen (1626r o79) the nightmare of the household totally gone lo pot (illus. ,1o).'r The place is in an uproar. The moLher, guardian of houselrolJ purity, slumps in a lorpor before a plate of sinful oysters wlrosc' shells litter the floor. The paterfamilias has given himself ovcr to the devil's weed and the altentions of a guitar-playing lrtrssy. The eldest child filches his mother's purse and his younger siL,lings gleefully count the coins. Matber is radically out of place, wilh cheeses and platters strewing the floor, along with fallen l,l,rying cards and the father's discarded hat. Overhead hangs nol ,r chandelier but a tub of dirty linen, ready [o crash. And il is only five in the afternoon ! Still lift' of the lable is slructured around [he same anxious p,rl.rriLy, with vict' ancl plt'asurc bcckoning at one end, virfut, ,rrrrl .rlrslt'rrlion arlrnonishinlg al thc othcr As rcprcscntcci by

4o

Jan Steen, Tlre

Disorderly
HousehoLd Apsley

House, London.

with Chardin, stagedJooking composilion is avoided, and although the design is tightly unified it appears informal and unaware of the viewer's presence: the fiction is rnaintained [hat Lhe place of eating and the place of viewing are one and bhe same, and through that fiction comes the idea that at this level of simplicity persons are interchangeable, and equal. As the viewer joins this space, solitude becomes intimacy; and Claesz. is close, however changed the circurn stances, to Brueghel's perception of creaLureliness as a benign levelling of human life, one which generates empathy and the recognition of mutual dependencey and solidarity. Though idyllic, Claesz.' sombre still lifes reveal a certain anxiety conceming material consumplion in the equation they sug gest between virtue and modesly of means. It is as if the inlimacy proposed by the painting depends on wealth being absent, and as if bhe atmosphere of consecrated calm can be sustained only amid conditions of bare sufficiency. The implication is that any excess beyond the basic thresholds of need, any swerving at the table towards display or indulgence, would disrupt harmonies lhat may be elicited only from simple things. ln a sense the harmony requires a certain degree ol forcing, and th\s is very clear in Claesz.' use of 'monochrome' technique. In fact the objects chosen for the still life in themselves have a broad tonal range, from the white of the linen to the black handle of the knife, and they also have a wide chromatic spread; but Claesz. deliberately evens out tonality and expands lhe middle range of greys, while at the same time filtering all colours through a distinctive brown-green. The nafural tones and colours of lhe objec[s are keyed to the translucent bottle green of a glass beaker or roemer. A certain measure of forcing is alstr cvident in Claesz' mode of composition. In thc. carly rlcclrlcs of the sevenleenth cenlury Dutch slill life hacl bt'cn p.rirrsl,rkirrlily Iranscriplivr', and high priccs rcf]cctcd lhc rn.ury lr,'Lrrs rr,',,1,',1 lo prxlurc tlrt'Irililr [irrislr ola rlr'(ilrt.yrr rrr ,r l]orrlr.rr'rl llrrl
and brilliance of the wine. As

,rs lhe demand for paintings grows and the market's capacity Io absorb more works increases, a new style emerges, one less t onrmitted to the visible labour of transcription, a style that is lrloader, more painterly, and above all, more quickly produced.3a ( l.resz.' work pioneers this new style, which abandons highlidclity Lranscriplion of the ou[er world in favour of a new goal, trrrily of the design. Objec[s in the image are related Lo each oLhcr lhrough rhythms arising within lhe four sides of lhe frame (onc has no sense of arbitrary cropping); harmonies of tone, col-

4r

Pieter Boeland

1:

Jacob Jordaens,

Circle of Frans liranckcn the Younger, Vnniias.

intrinsic worth, the meal has nobility, the nobility of ordinary


things.

Vantas.

l1lrs'es

Royaux des Beaux


ArLs, Brussels.

Wrdsworfh ll.rrtlord, i)nnccticut

orrr and composition build an order internal to the work lhat rrr.rkcs the earlier still life images seem in compadson naive and latl<ing in syntax. Claesz. produces immensely satisfying rlcsigns, where the relations between the elements of a still life ,rr r. so tinely planned that - despite the air of informality - the k'.rst llteratron would break the rhythm of the whole. This is ilrt' l<incl of formal achievernent which might be unimportant irr ilsclf, were it not for the seriousness and gravity which the rr,rnochronre lechnique is thus able to impart to its subject. The r['si1in's r-rnity, lhe weighI of its masses and [he added signifir ,rrr< r' whit h thc rhythrr c,rnfcrs on cach clcment, affect thc still lilr"s rrrt'.rrin1i: tlroLrlih crrtircly urr spt'r'tlcul.rr .rnd lacking in

The virtues of bare sufficiency, Claesz.' paintings insist on them, even at the cosL of somewhat forcing the image into the mould of noble calm. They occupy the admonitory or censodous end of the Dutch still life spectrum, and represenl at any rate one solu[ion lo the problem of affluence: absolute refusal of material excess. As sermons on the rejection of worldly seduction they may seem af first sight rather more successful than the branch of still life painting to which this task is officially entrusfed, the category known as panitos (illus. 4r, 4z).3' There is no doubt that oaailas pictures can be dazzling pieces of design bul that is precisely part of the difficulty. As rhelorical injunctions to resist the temptations of material pleasure, the uanitas can seem to modern eyes to be flawed by a serious, perhaps falal, contradic[ion. lt is one lhing to hear from the pulpil, or read in scripture or in Calvinist commentary that, vanily of vanr lic's, all is vanily, [ha[ man born of woman endurcs tttt ftrt a nromc'nt ('He is like lhe beasts thal pcrish'), that his lk'slr is ,rs gr',rss ('.rs,r fkrwt'r oI thc ficld, so hc fllrLrlisircllr'), llr,rl lris rl,rys .rrc trrrrstrnrt'tl Iilit'srrrol<t',,rrttl so ftrrllr. ll is t1rriIr'.ttroiIrct llttttli

(rlrrl('f lhe same senLiments in lhe form of a work of art. ( .rlvin's commentary on Isaiah fhe luxury of households is lrr ,r l,r r r,r y targel, and specifically those merchants' houses where I'ir lrrrt s hang on the walls,
l, ) ( ri(
r

lror it too often happens that riches bring self-indulgence, of pleasure produces flabbiness as we can see in wealthy regions and cilies where Lhere are merchanls. Now lhose who sail to distant places are no longer conlent wiLh home comforts but bring back wilh them unknown luxuries. I herefore because wealth is generally [he mother of extravagance, the prophet mentions here expensive household furnishings, by which he means the Jews brought God's judg nrcnl by lhe lavish way they decorated [heir houses For with ltitfures he includes expensive tapes[ries like Phrygian cmbroidery and vases moulded with exquisiLe art.36
.rncl superfluity

lhe inleresl of oanilss pieces may in fact lie in their fully self conscious acceplance of their 'rnternal flaw'. The genre changes ai once if we begin with the hypolhesis lhat lhe uanitas is deliberaLely built on paradox, and that lhe confiict between world reieclion and worldly ensnaremenl is in facl its governing
principle. Here we need to louch on the prehistory ol the oonitss, and the radical changes brought about by lhe Reforma[ion in the relaLions belween images, lexts and devotional experience. One index of lhe divergence belween Catholic and Reformalion visual r6gimes is the stark opposilion evident, for example, in discussions of devotional visualisation by Ignatius and by

Calvin. For Ignalius, lhe image is [he crucial instrument for galvanising the soui's force, the SpirituaL Erercises have as their arm the slow building up of images thal will Iocus subjectivity

entrrely. ConlemplaLing the Crucifixion. Lhis


exercisant is to proceed:

is how

the

lowcver much uqnitss pieces may try to deny it, Lhey cannot lst apc being picLures, lhal is, indulgences. There is no argument lr onr need thal can possibly justify the decoration of houses with lr,rnrccJ pain[ings, however cheap they might be (and some i,rrrrrlrrs pic[ures could be costly in Lhe exlreme). Certainly there
I
rr

Application of the hearirg. Listen lo the discourse of lhe people; [he blasphemies of Lhe soldiers; the words of the bad thtef

ri1lh

I be justificalion as investmenl, and one reason Dutch painI

rng flrurished so dramatically in ils economic golden age was tlr.ri to lheir purchasers picLures represented a kind of gilt-edged rcrurity But Lhe argument from investmeni is obviously rrtrrnrpatible wiLh the message of lhe usnitas, which is worldrt'jcclion. And in other circumstances, pictures can be justified .rs vrsual pleasure but Lhat can hardly apply in this case. Presenl( (l in less absolute lerms, the message of world-rejeclion might lr.rvc been able to find a way to co-exist wilh a cerLain measure ,rl inrlulgence; for example, if the rejection were partial, or along tlrr' lrncs of'Render unto Caesar . . .'. But the r:anitas speaks of .r /r,/,r/ r'efusal of lhe conditions of earthly life. And how other ivrsc can iI be taken? Its exhortalion permiLs ofno degrees. Either , r cit'cls the world or one does no[. And decoraling lhe house 'rrc rv illr lr.rrlr.d pictures suggesls one is not even going lo 1ry. ll wotrld seem, lhen, that the uqrtitLts is a category of image 1,,'rrrr.rrrcnlly undermined by internal conlradiction; noiicing the ,,'rrIr.r,Iit Iiorr, the moclern viewer may prefer lhe sclmbre I'r,.rl.l.rst Iicccs of ('lrt'sz, as rhckrricrlly more pcrsuasivc Yct rl r,r r'r.rrlly.rl lltis Ioinl ilt.r( ont'nt't'cls lo rccovcr .r scnst'olllr, , rrllrrr.rl rt rrrrlL'rrr'ss ol ilrt i,,rrllrr' lrorrr llrr' nr,rrk'rn vir'wr'r
:

who insults Jesus Chrisl, and those of lhe good ihief who acknowledges Hjm as God; the interior words of Mary, of the holy women, of St john; the seven words of Jesus Christ.
Applicatiott of the taste Tasbe the bitLerness of the heart of Mary at the sight of her Son nailed to the cross, and dying in the mosl cruel and ignominious lorLures. Taste, above all, the bitlerness of the hearl of Jesus, suffering at once from

His own sorrows and lhose of His Molher, and from the rigour of His Faiher who seems lo have forsaken Him
Applicatiotr of the smell. Respire lhe perfume

of

Jesus Christ dying; pa[ience, His Charily. Application of the

of Lhe virtues of His poverty, His humility, His

torcl

Kiss inwardly the cross and the bleed-

ing wounds of Jesus Christ." The facully of imaginalion is the link belween spiritr.ral inlcnsiiy
.rncl a

biblical lexl which, wilhouf lhe imaginary cnhanccrrrcrrts wrorrglrI l,y t]rc l.rrrcisrs, would be unrl.'lc lo rorrsc Ilrc srrl,icr lrortt rrrrlr/ir, nrt'nl,rl sloLIr 'l-lrc Wolrl hcrc is slnslrl ,r:, rrrlrl
I

,r: lcllcr r,rillr,rll sjriril; visLr.rlis,rlrorr is {o


rvlrr,

lr. llr,rrlllr .tl llrl

rtorrrrrr,rl rr.rrirr'

I, ' rlr .t ,rl llrr rrr,,lrl,rl ,,rr r.


I,rr
' , r

I rr

'

I r1r

rr r

r
r

,r(((,r(l((l .r lirrrriccl and calalylic role. Now consider Calvin,s 'rrrr(.nl,ry on Matlhew V: 41, Chrisl,s dismissal of lhe
rr

rr

r1'lrlt orrs

ithtlllnrL,: Then He

will say also lo

those who shall be on

ie to com_ unnecessary to enter into sublle irtlLrir ics as the sophists do, inLo lhe materials or form of this /rrr'. lor lhere would be equally d reason to inquire aboub llrc ri,rrrrr, which Isaiah connecl lh thelre: For'their worm

n,rckccl kr drparl from Him. sl.rtccl formerly, Lhat lhe ter llr,rt tlreadful punishment wh

t rrli,rrr: We are lherefore taugh[ how desirable it is to be the Son of God; because everlasting destruction orment of [he f]esh await all lhose He will drive Ironr his presence at the Las[ Day. He will Lhen order Lhe

rnilr ,rrr,l

We have

phorically

I'rtlrcrrd.

It is therefore

.rtlrls .r nrixfure ol brimsfone (ls. xxx, 55). Under these words, llrt'rcforc', we ought to represent lo our minds the fuLure

lr,r1i,, ,rrr,I so

hr

fr.orn providing a dirccl conncction belwecn

\ Jr|l

lfrl( ( ()r vt\t()ll

lr,,rrsr,,rr; ,rll wc know is this world, and lhe things of this world.

absence of allegorical coding). From this perspective what counLs

!V,
rr,'l

,rrc tonclcmned

,r rrr,rlr.r r.rl

by the Fall and our depravity lo inhabit world thal can never be lranscended; and images will

lrr'1p rrs to escape this fa[e.

is that when allegorical messages are present in uanitas pieces (which may be less often than the Allegorists suppose), it is nol enough simply to invoke an iconographic 'equals sign': the
pomegranaLe equals Ecclesia, the melon equals temperance, the arlichoke equals heavenly Majesty, and so forth. The equalions are also blocked: may stand for but unnot otherwise relate y, exceptby way of an abrupt change of gear from performative to constative and from image to word. A mechanical appli

strurggle between Lhe 'whal' and the 'how' ol umitas, I'r'lrvccn lhc conslative message of world rejection and the PerIornr.rrrce of lhat message as a costly work of art caught in Lhe l,'ils of worldliness, is not then simply a rhelorical misfortune, , rr Lhc work of hypocrisy. Where Catholic painting opens r.llor t lcssly on to sacred scenes and celestial spaces, the Northem r,,rrrllris has exactly no route towards the lranscendenfal that r,ision may directly take. Access is broken and oblique; the right

llrc

to

cation of the 'equals sign' (though much of the art-historical discussion of these paintings is nothing but lha[) exactly misses
the agonised relalions between the verbal and visual discourses which make up these pictures and lheir semantic field. The middle zone of the still life spectrum, halfway between the rsanitas piece and the enticements to pleasure offered by Jan Davidsz. de Heem (16o6 1684) or Willem Kalt (r6r9-t693), is occupied by the still life of disordel poised between harmony and catastrophe. Interestingly, the degree of disorder seems lo increase in propor[ion to the ]evel of affluence the table indicates as whole. Is il silver that causes the upheaval? In the piece by de Sfomme (d. t664) rn Copenhagen (illus. 43) things have gone horribly wrong, and [here are Steen like signs of household mayhem. One ol the roemers has been smashed to smithereens. The meal has shifted down from its proper place over bhe linen and begins [o spill all over the table. The plate with the glass fragments has been dumped carelessly over fhe crumpled cloth, and

,rrlilc clelour of the image through the word is lhe expression ,rl ,rn ensnarement in [he world which nothing can overcome,
,rn.l lcast of all the business of making piclures. Albertian paintrn11 is built on access lo the constative level,the picture plane r,,.rlways a window opening on to anolher kind of space; the r,.rnishir.rg poin[ unfailingly conveys [he viewing subjecL, as lhe ',ltitiltrtrl Erercises convey the reading subject, to infinily. But the i,,l,rilrrs knows nothing of [his escape into other worlds: its l,rrrvic'w cannol get beyond the nearesl objects. The cocoon of nr,.rrnc'ss, thal 'dark' space of touch and creatural repetilion, harl,,,Lrrs a force of gravity and inertia nothing can escape. The Ir.rnscendenlal can be sensed only in the inability to reach il, .rrrrl in that conflrcted, agonistic relation belween the conslative (s.rr'r cd trulh) and the performative (the inerlia of tiiags, ensnarerr rcnt by lhings) the representation embodies its own failure and LJnderstanding oanitas pieces in this way may lherefore entail i.rliing a certain distance from a current art historical war, the ,,nc waged between the Pan-Allegorisls and the Anti Allegorists , rl I )rrtch painting : lhe former insisting on an absence of natural rsrr .rncl a saluralion of the image by lexical codes, and the latter tl,rilli.rnlly led by Svetlana Alpers) arguing for lhe absence of
,,,,1ir11 and an underslanding

ofDutch painting as a semantically r,r'rrlr.rl art of description.3e Forced to choose which of these must say : bolh, or neither. When 1,,r llrs to iakc', the presenl essay them is seen trom lhe viewpoint of llr, ,lisagrccr:renl between :,t rrriolits, Llrings slrifl: Ihc intcrest becomes thc rc/n/ior between ,rll, 1i,,ry .rrrd naturrlisnr, lhc obliqLrt', clcflcck'd passagc' frorlt irrr,rlit' lrr worrl,.tnrl llrt'sctttattlit ch.rr'1ic which Lh.ti pirss.tl',c ltos ,,, ,,, , rrr rlsr'll (.rs (listirr(I lrrrrrt llrc rlrtcsliorr ol lltr'Itcsctrtl ot

sumption as stupid, anarchic and blind. Production is a delicale web that runs between craftsmeo painter and viewer, consump tion is a tear in thal web; and the tear can only be repaired if the virtues of producLion and craft are restated in the image itself, covering the tear over and making the fabric of production
seamless aBain.

At it

Lhe

far end of the sfill life spectrum pleasure beckons in

the form of the pronkstiller:en, the 'banquet-pieces' perfected by (among others) Jan Davidsz. de Heem and Willem Kalf.ao And
seems that nolhing could be further

from the anxious self-

45
I

ian Davidsz. de lccm, Still Life uith / o/rsir:r Toledo Muscum of

Arf,

)hio

restraint of Pieter Claesz., or less inhibited about [he pleasures of touch, taste, sight and possession. At last the natural world re-appears - grapes, plums, peaches, lobster; one has moved away from the sanctum of purely man-made abundance. As in the classical reria, these are foods requiring li[tle or no prepara tion, and one sees the lobster cooked bub intact; as though to underscore lhis new pastoral relaxation, de Heem introduces the motif of leaves and tendrils, indicating a flow between the abundance of lhe table and that ofnature (illus.4s). Nevertheless,

irrilced all the plates seem dangerously close to the table-edge. lhcre is much interest in ruined form: broken bread and nutslrclls, half-carved meal, shapeless wax, and of course the cut k'rnon, ubiquilous in Dutch slill life and versatile in its meanings; lrcre its dangling peel goes with the other signs of precarious Lralance Again in Willem Claesz. Heda (rs94-r682; illus. 44) onc sees the table strewn with litter, messy nuts and oyster shclls, an overturned tankard, plales tilting and overhanging the t'clgc. In scenes of this kind the table behaves in much the same way as lhe floor does in Jan Steen, showing material which has lrst its piace, and wilh that, lhe peril of a household losing its nror.rl grip. Lids gape open, cullery lies scattered about, and
,r

44 Willem

Claesz Heda, Bteakfasl Piece. Mus6e Mayer van den Burgh,

Antwerp.

all due lkrwarrce for the slow improvement ofEuropean table-manners, ii still looks as though lhe meal has been consumed by bears. Wlr.rt makes the disorder all the more reprehensible is that the
wlrolcsome food has tumed into d6bris. Making

,rlrjt'cls manhandled and knocked about in lhis fashion are so trrrrspicuously crafled; lhere is a clash between the careful attenli,rn o[ thosc who make, the craftsmen and the painler, and the rrr,lililicncc of lhosc who enjoy lt is as if production wert'

llrorrlilrl ol .rs inlcllilicnt, pLrl)()sivc, cr,ltur'.'builtlinll, ,rnri c,rn

llrt, .rrlt,ss lo nature is of a special kind, the sort of privileged p,rslrrr.rl lcturn available only to the very rich. In the Dutch rr,rlirrrr,rl clret (fish, cheese, bread, hutsepot) fruit is a luxury, not ,r sl,rplc, arrd the hamper of costly southem delicacies has a sig nifir',rncc rabher different here from the naturalness and region.rlity the same fruit convey ir! say, Caravaggio. It marks an ,rtcc'ss lo conlinental resources, a breaking with regional limit.rtion. Yet these fruits are not the real stars of the show. What rrtrnts in de Heem and even more in Kalf are artefacts, and the pccr-rliar compelition they open up between the skills of painting .rnd of the other crafts. 'I here had existed in anliquity the fopos of painting's superior yct limited understanding of the crafts, exemplified in the story

who dared to criticise shoes painted by Apelles on the grounds lhat the laces were wrong; Apelles corrected Lhc fauLt, and elated by this lhe cobbler the next day went on lo crilicise the painLing of a leg and was reprovingly told by Apclles to 'stick to his last'.41 The story elevates the art of paintirrg beyond the mere work of artisans, and proof of pain[ing's lircaler s[atus is that it has no need for anything more than a sLrperficial acquaintance with the other crafts, preoccupied as it is with higher things. Kalf works entirely against this tradition o[ prainting's exalted ignorance. His goal is to produce designs lirr plate that are fher than any silversmith's, goblets more t'laborate lhan any glass-maker can create; he puts in a high I'id for painting as lhe arl or craft which subsumes all the olhcrs a'] As a result, there is an exuberant inlerplay between thc labour concentrated in the depicted objects, and that crnbodied by the painting. In part, the value of the painting corres from the value of the objects, which puts the painter's l.rbour in the lesser and dependent position. But in as much as P,rintirrg outstrips and subsumes the other crafts, it establishes ils own labour as superior, and from thal position of superiority ,,rnfcrs on the crafted objects its own greater worth. The rivalry lrctwccn representation and its objects is at its most dramatic wlrcn the latler are already at a pinnacle of accomplishmenf, and h Sli l.ift with Nqutilus Cr.rp (illus. 46) Kalf takes on a number ol rnasterpieces: a Ming sugar bowl, a complex-patterned Persi,rrr lug, y'rqon de Venise glass, and the challenge of the nautilus t trp itself. And probably Kalf wins. As Goethe wrote of anolher K,rll painting: 'Onc musf see lhis picture in order to undersland in wlr,rl st'nsr' .rrt is suPcri()r Lo t'trttrrc antl whlt thc spirii ol
,,l- the cobbler

, \\

ll,,,r l(,r

I,

man imparts

Ll)irrit'

Lhere is no qttt'sfiotr of Lhe golden vcsscls rIl tlrt';rit trtrt', that should I have the choice I would choose the piclure.'03 't-ht. competition betwccn painling ltrtl ollrt't .ttts rtt tt,tlls st'crns kr havc bccn concluctcd at cx.tctly tlrc lt'vcl l)rrl,lr r,'lllr lors trosl cnjoyt'tl Lrrt.ttlittrblt' viltttosily ll,'rc r,'lllr l,'t" ,ttt,l

lo objects. For me, at leas[,

(
I

(,nn( jL.i\(,ur s nccdcd no elaborale aesthetic treatises or theories


i , r rr rr

slalrl painting's justificaLion or goal, which could hardly l rrr, t slr.rightforward (or limited). Nevertheless. in Kalf the ', 'r rrllr:.rly oi the compelilion inLroduces a subtly disturbing note, l,l r, rrrlcring the poinl of the virtuosity unclear. Il is one thing 1,, ,lisl,l.ry virtuosity through the bloom of grapes or the fuzz ,'l l,t.rthcs; but when the display concerns artefacts which are ,rlr, .r.ly corrrplete and self-sufficient objects of arl, the additionsL
h
r

dream of weallh they present The ontological which his technique inlroduces has the effect of ins[ability rendering substantiality uncerlain, and lhis oPens the doors of fantasy. Kalf paints illusions of wealth, to sell to the merchants of Amsterdam. Is this what they drcaml of at night? And his work touches on the rather morc deep scalcd and permanent

nics,

is the

r',rlLrc

conferred by represenlation has an aspect of the graLui[ous

,rr llrc redundant. The painlings are subject to the paradox of 'llrc supplemenl'. If [he original objects lhe Ming porcelain, Ilrt naulilus cup, and the rest - truly are al the pinnacle of beauly, llrcn thcre should be no room for lhe supplementary value added l,y painting. ThaL [here ls a supplemenl here indicates, ralher
llr.rn .r sfate of completion, one of lack: there is something about llrt,st'crbjects which requires Lha[ value conlinue lo be added to

vein of fantasy, [he one which sends cr()wds clueuing up to look al the Crown Jewels, Tulankharncn's coffin, thc Peacock Throne of bhe Topkapi, the Monn Lisrt or thc roeks sent back from lhe moon. The desire al work hcrc conccrns tlle feeling lhat lhis at lasL is it. this is Lhc costlicsl, lltc rlrcsl, lhc ulIim.rlc object on earth. Refracted across the tltrrcl ol scvcntcenlh ccntury Dutch merchants, [he dream of lhc pcarl bcyond price is histori cally specific, yet still inlclligiblc in its oullincs, and iF lhere is any point at which Kalf 's work breaks oul of its extremely nar-

llrcrr The work of ornamen[ation which produced the silver lrtirrrc on the cup or the filigree of the gill has to go or, but
sirr t' llrese lhings are already elaboraled [o the grealest possible ,lr'1ir t'c lhere seems no point al which ornamenbation could ever , t.rsc. lf lhese objects are already masLerpieces, why should they l,r' rcpcated in a secoad masterpiece? The duplication of elabora lr'.r' work begins to poinl to a process that is as endless as it r. wrthoul reason; the replica indicafes a deftciency in the original ,,l,1cc i lhaL will noI be remedied by the supplement, but conlami-

row confines of class. it rs here Kalf's still liles are disturbing in another sense, in that they tend Lo provoke lhe queslion, rulro is to see all lhis? Whal is

or interpersonal dimension of such images? Despite the label of'banquel' scenes, in facl there is generally not much sign ol conviviality or social sharing. Since Kalf is so preoccupied with objects whose primary funclion is to be owned, the first viewer proposed and assumed by lhe paintings must be the colLhe social

lo speak hollows il out. K.rli's lechnique is brillianl al rendering the artefacts substan li.rl .rncl convincing, yet il also has lhe unnerving consequence ,rl suggcsting a virtuosity that circles endlessly round a kind ,,1 i,oicl Because the copy is allegedly better than the original, llrt poinI o[ the original is lost, yet if Lhat is lost, the copy loses rls lorrndalion as well. What is in lhe end mos[ disturbing is llr,rl llrt' substantiallty of [he objects comes under threat: are llrcy lc.rl? did lhey acLually exist in Kalf's studio? Or are they i, [ ,rl obyccts, based on Lhe principles of aclual objects yet taking ,'11 lronr lhosc into a space of imaginary perfec[ion? In some ,,rs, s r,vc hrve lhe answers,nn but the questions are nol really
n.rtcs it and so

lector who commissions or buys lhem. BuL Lhe idea of 'the collection' lhen has a peculiar effect on the paintings' space. Even here, still life is to do wilh proximal space, the space round the body, thaL of lables and the things within arm's reach. The sPace of the Still Life wilh Nautilus Cup is as taclile as in any ZurbatAn; everything one sees is the product of the hand, from the weave of the rug to the work of the glass-blower to Lhe inlricacies of wrough[ melal. That the space takes its charge from lhe hand is underscored in the fruil at the righl of the painting, and in the lemon with its eleganl spiral, suggeslive here of skilful turn ing and cu[ting. This is slill the space of a meal, and all the objects are lechnically in use. Bu[ this tactile and creatural space has shed most of its likeness lo the earlier spaces of still life. With Lhe modest P ompeian renia, and the frugal tables of Colin

,,r1r.rlrlt'ol beilg emprrically resolved; they concern lhe unsLable ,,rrloloi',v ol lhc obJccls wilhin the /oglc of the painlings. What rrrolr,,,rlls K,rll's rrnagcs oI wc.rlIh lrrrl corrsuntplion at the slrrn rrrrl ol llrcir r'xislcncc, ,rnd wlt.rt rr,rl<r's llrt'nr consiticlirl,ly nrort' rrrI, rr',,I rrr1i llr,rrr llrci, rrrililrt lrc il rt sitrl s, '['ly on llrcrr lryrrlt r lr

and Zurbarin, lhe objects are related through laclilily {<r rlonrcstir action, with all of ils humanrsing ancl sla[rrlisirrli l.t"tl llrri LIr oIrjcr ts orr Kllf's t.rLrlc' forrl a Lolltlirttt, wlrrr lr is lr' :r,tv llrty t'xisl itt sr'P.tr.tttotl ltotll tllc tortlirlts rtl , ' t , I ' 1' , ' ' ' Ir' lil, llr, y l', 1,,rr1i, r.rllrlr, lo lltc sp,ttt ()l ,r iUlrr/r',lrrrr,,rrr', ,\rrrl
I i r r I t r t

llris is orrly lhe first of their spatial abstractions- The collector's itt rrrs thcmselves come ftom a new and greater space, of trade r,'rrtt's and colonies, maps and discoveries, investment and r'.rpit.rl Il is these which bring lo the table the porcelain of China ,rntl thc carpe[s of bhe Near East, and the shell which lyrically srrrrrs up the wealth of the merchants of the sea. As with the llowcr painlings, lhe objects speak of oceanic distances and lr aclc, and this sense of breaking the confines of regional or local space, of flying out towards the far comers of the globe, disrupts lhc unity and coherence of the laclile, domestic space of the table. And there is a further abstraction; all the objects are items whose price can be exactly known: it is for their costliness that llrcy are valued; and this serves to abstract the scene still further, [,y converting all of its contents into units, calculable and interclrangeable, of wealth.

hollowing out the dream


abundance generates waste.

of prosperity with the

insight:

Still considering Kalf's 47 Willem


Kalf,
SLill Life with Metalwarc Mus6e de Tess6, Le Mans.

Sti

to the queslion of the kind What is [he nature of the viewer's gaze? If the primary viewer
is taken to be the picture's owner,

Life with Nautilus Cup,let us retum of sociality the painling assumes.

it is in part lhe gaze of salisfac[ion: lhe man of wealth contemplates the fruits of his industry,

Slill life of the lable is deeply concerned wilh the issue of because it is the hand and not only the eye which organises its spaces, and the touch of hands in the everyday 11t'slures of eating and drinking which confers upon its objects lhcir human warmth and resonance. Kalf's space is tactile, too, br.rt this value is now in crisis. The combined influences of the .rrt collection, oceanic trading and capital invesbment operate lo undo the cohesion created in taclile space by gesture, l.arniliarity and creaturely routine. This breaking or fracturing of domestic space raises an alarming possibility: that in the world irnplied by the painling, nothing can be truly af home. Because it has lost ils bonds with the aclions of the body, matter is perma-

trclility

rrcnlly out of place. Its spatial co-ordinates are those of acquisilion, navigation, finance: theoretical axes, with which the body

cln never intersect. The works by Kalf that immediately precede tlrc banquet-pieces by which he is known, the pictures of his so called Paris period, are exploralions of [his dimensionless spacc.o' The Still Life with Metalware (illus. 4Z) shows the true lcsting place of [he object fully commodified and abstracted: thc table is like a bank vault - or a graveyard. Though worth llrousaods of guilders, the heaped up objects look like so much lrok : lhe lreasure-house is where objecLs come lo die. Divorced Ironr usc, things revert to absurdity; anticipaling nothing from hrrrnirn aLlenlion, they seem lo have dispensed wilh human ,rItt'rrtiorr, whose purpose and even existence they come to chalIt'rr1ic. Arrcl this c'{inrcnsionlcss spacc pcrsisls insidc Kalf's sccminlily t'xrrlrcr.rnI ltrortlslillruttt, r.rnclcrminrng thcir sLrhstancc anti

,rn(l t',iv('n the Calvinist lradition of thinking of prosperity as llrc lcw.rrcl of virtue, il is one of contentment, But lhe painting ,rlso tlrrcstions that gaze. For one thing, it involves an almost lol,rl solrtude. The picture reflects wealth back on itself, like a rrirror, or locks wealth in, Iike a safe. Or let us suppose that llrt' owner of the picture displays it before others. They, ioo, rrr,ry share the dream of wealth, but the dream is one likelier to isolate lhan lo bind individuals together: part of Kalf's dream ol weallh is that of the absoluLe individual, unique in his possessions, as lhe possessions are themselves unique. Wealth is inscparable here from the ideas of competition and individuation, ,rnd where wealth is greatest the individuation is at its extreme. 'I-he display of prosperity inserts a new function of separation o[ people from Lhings and from each other, and we find the slill life of luxury at a strange crossroads between the levelling irnpulse which stil life possesses traditionally through ibs opposition to 'megalography', and the impulse of hierarchy and scparation presented by wealth. As still life's aspect of rhopography levels human life and brings it down to its basic encounters with lhe material world, it describes bonds of familiarity between oulselves. the objects around us, and our fellow creatures; but lLrxury dissolves that intimate and creaturely environment. The r'oncepts of luxury and display break up fhe intirnate, cocoonJike space round the body and open it on to enormous distances: thc distances of trade, but also the social distances between indivrduals and classes precipitated by the kind of massive and flucIuatrng economy which, rather than the table, is now the scene's rcal material support.

has gone far beyond the poin! at which it might still be regulated

appetite. The accumulation of capital can now only be matched by artificial needs, pushed to the extreme where the objects that express and salisfy them now border on the fantastic. At the same time, the rhyLhms of capital are such as to dissolve rather than strengthen bonds of commonality, and wealth is represented, in The Nautilus Cup, as forming crests or peaks scaled by solitary possession. Social fixity and unity are no longer guaranteed by dearth, and the individual is proposed as one who must invent and construct his social posilion, in conditions of solitude surrounded by economic flux. Painting enLers this field as one device among many for supervising abundance and superabundance through discourses that render the flux of plenly coherent, at least in representation And in this, still life painting has an important r6le to play, since ils whole subject is nothing else but the life of people among

by

material things.

In Dutch still life affluence is rarely presented through


48 Willem
Claesz.

lleda, Va ifas.
Colleclion Haags
(lcmeentemuseum,

neutral inventory of goods, but is coded lhrough discourses that impose on abundance their own principles of intelliSibility and control, and ensure that 'affluence' remains in the orbit of 'luxury'

Ihc Hague.

in its older sense. What controls lhe comucopia is in the first place the idea that ethics and economics are inseparable. At one

It is instructive to compare Kalf's painting with the depiction


ol' surfeit in Brueghel's Bqttle between Carniu&l and Lent hom a hurdred years before (illus.34). There, what holds the peasant figLrrcs inside the image and the viewer outside it in their respecl ivc social positions is the feudal economy of dearth: material tcsources have absolute limits set by nature, and nothing will incrcase them. Human appetite is enough to deal with and adjust llrt'nraterial balance belween sufficiency and insufficiency; and it r{ocs so by imposing on everyone represented in the scene lhc samc regime of abslention and indulgence. The material conrlilrrns of ordinary life draw individuals together and subordirr.rtc p.rrticular to collective need;the solution to the problem ol .rburrclancc is solidarity in thc facc of dearth and pJenty alikc.

Ir

llrr' posl [cLrd.rl world irnplicrl by Kalf's painting, abunclancc

cr(1. ( l.r(sz porLrays the utopia of consumplion perfeclly rr,rl,lrctl .rli.rinst resources: his whole 'monochrome' technique rv,,rls lrr rid the scene of whatever might be oul of place, lo l,,rrrr:lr t'xccss in all ils forms, and to unify Lhe elements of the r,rrrrlrosiliorr so tightly that in iLs aesthetic self-sufficiency the rv,,r I' rnay convincingly stand for a morally as well as economi,.rlly sclf sufficienl order. In the 'sLill life of disorder', affluence rs pli'51'nlgcl as a dilemma, a crossroads between harmony and ,lislrrrmony. As in Jan Steen, the regulation of the home is bound rrlr wilh lhe moral fate of individuals (and of the society as a whole), what disturbs Lhe peace is consumption let loose and ,,n lhe rampage, what restores lhe peace are lhe values of prorlrrciion and vigilance, nol least as embodied in the painting. In lhe upper reaches of prosperity, work such as that of de Heem .rnr1 Kaif supplies an imagery of weallh coded both to pleasure (llrc cxuberance of craft in competilion with ilself, supported ,rrrrl cnabled by wealth) and to the deeper themes of the rranifas. SLill life forms a range of oplionsj in all its regions, affluence is clhically keyed. Still hfe was able lo provide its viewers wi[h images in which ilrc historically unprecedented instabilily and volalility of their rr.rlt'rial cullure could appear as regulated and stabilised. In this w,rrk of visual ideology, lhe discourse of eLhics is joined by .r l.orce no less slabilising, Lhat of craf[ labour. Amid the general trrrccrtainty and anxiety surrounding consumption, still life .rllirrns skilled labour as a kind of gold standard that will hold its own lhrough all the vicissitudes of (over)abundance. There ,rr c cxccplions. When Kalf portrays the fruits of human labour .rs .r kind of mirage, there is a sense in which lhe painter's own l.rl,ours are con[aminated; aL its mosl in[eresting. Kalf's work r.rlls into question the whole ideology of productive labour, rrrt ltrtling within this his own. And the slill lifes of disorder by ,['Sionrrne and Heda seem as in[erested in entering inlo the , lr,ros of consumption as in relurning things to equilibrium (illus. I i, 14); the tilting of the plates and overturning of the goblets , rr'.rtc .r visual lension that lhe paintings build on, ralher lhan ,lisowrr: lhey ruanf lo explore a bil of disorder just as Jan Slt'r,n cnjoys his unruly households, and makes us enjoy them loo Nt'vclthc'less, rrr lhis crafl iradition it is the values storc,d ir llrl lrorrt'st Irlrours ol p.rinling which presicic. ovcr [he confus rrrli rr',rlrrr ol .rlrunrl,rncc,.rlcl lr'tur'n iI to rrrlt' \Nlr.rl is rcrrr.rrl'.rIrIr,,rIrorrI llrc l)rrLrlr stiJJ lilr'|l,rirrlt.rs is llr.rl

'

\r,l,rrrsiLrs Ilosthacrl

llrl

lilLlt r.

ll,'rnlrnl t IliLln'

M.rtrrrlshrris,

lh, ll.r1lrl

scruliny. Working alongside the discourse of ethics, the applicalion of an even, unimpassioned regard subdues lhe potenfial disorder of a material culture awash in plenly: consumplion is
reabsorbed into product i on.

lr

What makes Du[ch still life unique is lhe symmelry between this anonymous, self-effacing technique and the parlicular range of possibiliLies afforded by rhopographic painting. Rhopography works againsl the idea of greatness: while human beings may be capable of exlraordinary heroism, passions, ambitrons, it leaves the explorafion of these lhings to others, and against megalography it asserts another view of human life, one that atlends to the ordinary business of daily living, the life of houses and tables, of individuals on a plane of material existence where lhe ideas of heroism, passion and ambition have no place. The Dutch painters of still life are true to this rhopographic scale of values in that they rnake no use of painting as a vehicle for bringing to the world the uniqueness of a personal vision.nu They are not attracted by still life as a mode of self-expression, or by the possibility of raising Lheir arl to Olympian heights. And they are inside the real, mundane world far more than, for instance, Cot6n and Zurbar\n, in tha! lhey have an acute sense bhat in the world as they 6nd it everything has a price, including the work of a painter. They know that in mercantile sociely, awareness of class and of lhe thousand degrees of affluence is as much a parl of ordinary and everyday experience as any of the crealurely pleasures of eating and drinking; more precisely,
they realise lhat in lhe world they actually inhabit, creatural life, the life of appelite and the table, can have no existence outside the field of social and economic power. The viewer is related

llroy work as if they had no desire to produce a personal idiolect ,,r slylc; where this emerges it does so almost incidentally, not .rs a ccntral aim. What they do want of their images is lhal they r t'prcsent a faithful record of the hours spent in their production. tlrt'ir' labour is apparently not subject lo inspiration, but is an ,'vcrr skrlfulness, wilhout'peaks'. Il is a dependable, highly prolr.ssional slyle, which assumes that because skill is evenly conlr,,llcd, labour can be quantified and priced, and it does nothing

5o

PieLer Claesz., Life

gill

uirh

Stoneware

\Nine Glass, Herring and

ltg,

Breal Museum of
Fine ArLs, Boston

to lhe

not only through a general creaturely sense of hunger and appelile, or of inhabiting a body with its cocoon
scene

lrr

srrggcsl that [his thought makes [he painters uneasy.

Altlrotrgh [he prices of pictures also reflect bhe demands of the rrr.rr l.cl, thc painters behave as though demand could never by ilscll crt'alc a painting's value, which musl be fully inscribed on ils srrrl.rcc bcfore it can even enter the markel-place. Through

llt

ol this rcliable, impassive style, the painters viewed and l,rt'scnlcr{ tlrt' r[rundance of their material civilisation, whctlrcr llrl olr;r'rt Lo Lrc clcpiclcrl is worth .r fcw pcnnics or lhottsatrtls ,,1 lirrilrlt'rs, it is srrbjcct Io Llrc srtrrc trt'littrLrtrs.rtrtl trtrt'xtilt',1
L ns

of nearness and routine, but through a worldly knowledge that knows what it is to live in a stratiEed society, where wealth rruances everylhing, down to the last details. They accepl these linritirrg condiLions, and their work systematically avoids lhe rncgalographic register to which still life painters such as (.rlavaggio and C6zanne ate drawn. But what happens when llrcst' lwo systcms of value, these two world vicws, rhopogra l,lry.rrr,l nr.'g.rl, rgr-aphy, come lo collicle?

Related Interests