© The State Hermitage Museum | photo: Vladimir Terebenin

Four Market Scenes

Frans Snijders, ca. 1615
Stage Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

The Antwerp painter Frans Snijders embarked on his career with some hesitancy as a still-life and animal painter. After a stay in Italy, he arrived back in Antwerp in 1609, just after the proclamation of the Twelve Years’ Truce that suspended the hostilities of the Eighty Years’ War with Spain. The Scheldt River, Antwerp’s lifeline, had been blockaded since 1585, dealing a heavy blow to the city’s economy. The four market scenes from the State Hermitage Museum, with vegetables, fruit, game, and fish spread out on stalls, remind us of the abundance that the city was once again able to supply – and needed in order to revive its reputation. That said, this marketing stunt by Snijders also exemplifies his masterful talent. His keen eye for detail and sense of space, combined with his ability to convincingly create an atmosphere, are all characteristic of these gigantic masterpieces, which were commissioned by the influential patrician Jacques van Ophem. They constitute a beautiful tribute to the economic policy of the archducal couple Albrecht and Isabella.

Hildegard Van de Velde, Curator, Snijders & Rockoxhuis, Antwerp

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