Still Life

Pieter van Anraedt, 1658
Mauritshuis, The Hague

Within Pieter van Anraedt’s oeuvre, this painting is truly unique in that it is the only surviving still life by an artist otherwise only known as a portrait painter. As far as we know, he did not specialize in this type of picture at all, and yet this astonishingly beautiful depiction of a few humble objects on a table easily surpasses many efforts by colleagues who had made it their business to paint nothing but still lifes. It is this enigma, coupled with the perfection of the composition and the well-nigh impossibly life-like rendering of the glistening on brittle objects – using a subtle impasto in the highlights – that make this one of the most beautiful seventeenth-century still lifes in existence. The textures of the earthenware jug and the glass are truly palpable. Standing in front of it never fails to create a sense of wonder at how its stillness and representation of light and shadow invoke much the same sense of calm and serenity one feels when looking at a Vermeer.

Bart Cornelis, Curator of Dutch and Flemish Paintings 1600-1800, The National Gallery, London

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