A lot of folks will be having an unusually low-key Turkey Day tomorrow. Maybe you’re cooking an over-the-top meal for two (never met a leftover we didn’t like), ordering from your favorite local eatery, or taking this year off entirely. You do what feels right—our new Vintage Edition will put you in a festive mood no matter what. Originally painted in Holland circa 1625 by Flemish artist Clara Peeters, Still Life with Cheeses, Artichoke, and Cherries isn’t exactly a Thanksgiving cornucopia, but it’s certainly a spread we’d like to sink our teeth into, and an abundance of artistic talent at that.
The foods pictured in Still Life with Cheeses, Artichoke, and Cherries are subjects Peeters returned to throughout her career. Cherries, butter pats, stacks of cheese, and halved artichokes all made recurring appearances in her paintings, perhaps evidence of a perfectionist bent (though we like to think she turned to them for tasty factor). They also represent a confluence of traditional staples and foreign produce procured via flourishing trade—artichokes (from the Mediterranean) and cherries (perhaps from the region between the Black and Caspian seas) poised alongside local dairy products. Topped in ribbed petals of butter, the tower of three cheeses takes up the most real estate in this image, but those sensual, exposed layers of artichoke leaves and gleaming red cherries are perhaps the most enticing elements for the eye, as visually delectable as their counterparts would have been creamy. It’s a reminder, then, of the magic of multiculturalism through a culinary filter. And of course there’s a hunk of bread and a small heap of salt for good measure. No elaborate feast here. This is a celebration of simple, fresh, beautiful food, rendered in reverent detail by Peeters’ precise hand.
Because of sweeping restrictions on women’s access to artistic training and guilds, Peeters was one of only a few women artists to work professionally in the early 1600s. That didn’t stop her from making her mark. There’s not a lot known about her, but her distinctive style—particularly her tight compositions and low viewpoints—was so influential on still life painting as an independent genre that it’s thought she may have headed a small school herself. She was among the first to perfect the finely detailed oil paintings of flower, fish, game, breakfasts and banquets that emerged in northern Europe in the early 17th century, putting her own spin on them. Her intimate, compact compositions and closely clustered arrangements were a significant departure from the more scattered, distant layouts of her contemporaries. The often overlapping objects build depth, detailed fine-linework and a carefully limited color palette create rich realism, and those characteristic low vantage points put the viewer on a venerational level. You might get the sense you’re seated at her well-stocked table.
Though official documentation of her life and career fell short, Peeters worked her signature into her art—through her recognizable style, yes, but sometimes even in the form of a self-portrait subtly reflected in mirrored surfaces or a morsel of food shaped carefully into her initials. When you collect Still Life with Cheeses, Artichoke, and Cherries, you’re not just bringing this bounty to your walls (and the pleasure of some Grade A food art goodness). You’re locking down a li’l piece of Clara Peeters’ legacy, and that’s a real treat.
With art for everyone,