Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam / Creditline photographer: Studio Tromp

Breakfast Piece

Pieter Claesz., 1636
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

A small panel, muted colors, subdued light and a few objects: with economical means, Pieter Claesz created a whole world that evokes our senses and captivates us with all its opposing facets. We enjoy foaming beer, soft velvet, a glittering herring and a crispy bun. There is geometric rigor in the beaker’s waffle pattern and the creases of the linen, as well as painterly disorder in the scattering of nutshells and the diagonal of the knife. The fragility of the glass contrasts with the solidity of the tin. We see a luxurious white flour bun and a humble herring. The close-up view creates intimacy, but the reflection of a window hints at the outside world. Pieter Claesz’s work is a symbol of his time, yet it is also timeless: an embodiment of the modern philosophy of mindfulness. Admittedly, many of these aspects apply to still lifes in general. And of course I admire Claesz’s pronkstilleven in Cologne, but the artful balance and minimalist purity place this Rotterdam ontbijtje (breakfast) in a league of its own.

Anja Sevčík, Head of the Department of Baroque Painting, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud, Cologne