Students will learn about the history of 17th century Holland and the background of the genre of still lifes. Each student will create a mixed media collage of everyday scenes from his/her community.
The Fruit and Vegetable Seller
Time Alloted1 Hour Classroom Time (plus several class periods)
State Content Standards
Visual and Performing Arts Content Standards, Grade 7
1.1 Describe the environment and selected works of art, using the elements of art and the principles of design.
2.6 Create an original work of art, using film, photography, computer graphics or video.
Historical and Cultural Context
3.2 Compare and contrast works of art from various periods, styles and cultures and explain how those works reflect the society in which they were made.
4.2 Analyze the form (how a work of art looks) and content) what a work of art communicates) of works of art.
History-Social Science Content Standards, Grade 7
7.11 Students analyze political and economic change in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (the Age of Exploration, the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason)
- Focus works, projected from the Internet or copies
- Chart paper for teacher to record observations and conclusions
- Paper and pencil for making notes
- Digital cameras
- Mixed media art supplies
Cornelis Lelienbergh was a 17th century Dutch still life painter from The Hague.
The Vegetable Seller is a particular type of still life which depicts “kitchens” or “markets.” This type showed cooks in their kitchens, preparing food for the table as well as market scenes of vendors selling their produce, their fruits of the fields.
Seventeenth century Holland was a major maritime power, a center of world commerce and the first Protestant state in Europe. Its wealthy middle class replaced the Catholic Church as primary art patrons.
The 17th century was the golden age of art and economic well being in Holland.
Why is this significant?
The newly acquired wealth of the middle class resulted in a great desire for artworks reflecting their new status. This was the time of the emergence of independent landscapes, portraits of individual citizens, and scenes of everyday life in the history of art.
Make a connection:
The Crocker Art Museum has other 17th century still life paintings. Locate them and decide if they can be categorized as any of the 17th century specialty still lifes: breakfast, floral, vanitas, market or kitchen, or pronk (display). Locate other still lifes from the 19th and 20th centuries and compare and contrast them with The Vegetable Seller.
• Teacher projects or distributes copies of images of The Vegetable Seller. Teacher leads students in a discussion about the painting. Teacher engages students in a conversation about the subject matter and gives historical background about the history of 17th century Holland and the genre of still life. Teacher emphasizes the artist’s deliberate arrangement of the items in the composition.
• Teacher projects or distributes copies of images of Salt of the Earth. Teacher leads students in a conversation about the painting. Teacher asks students to compare the two paintings and records student observations.
• Teacher asks students to brainstorm about things they see everyday in their community. Teacher records student responses.
• Teacher asks students how they could document their own community. Teacher records student responses.
• Teacher gives the assignment: Students will use digital cameras to document everyday scenes from their community and then create a mixed media collage from the images.
• Step 1: Students will use a digital camera to photograph everyday scenes from community.
• Step 2: Students will print images. After deciding which images to use, students will assemble a composition.
• Step 3: Students will use several mediums to assemble a mixed media collage.
Assessment: To what extent did students
• Participate in classroom discussion?
• Document images of community?
• Use principles of design in arrangement of composition?
• Create a mixed media collage depicting everyday community scenes?
Dutch artist Cornelis Lelienbergh was a native of The Hague. Very little is known about his life. He became a member of the Guild of St. Luke in the Hague in 1646 and married the daughter of an art dealer three years later. In 1656 he is listed as one of the founders of a painter’s confraternity called Pictura. Ten years later he lived in the Schlosse Maerspeug as an official. He is known for paintings of hunting still lifes with birds and hares. The well-known Dutch landscape artist Salomon van Ruysdael admired Lelienbergh’s still life compositions and painted a limited number of still lifes with similar compositions.
The Guild of St. Luke was a professional artist’s and artisan’s trade organization which regulated the commerce and production of potters, engravers, glass makers, tapestry weavers, faiencers (potters who made earthenware decorated with metallic glazes), booksellers, sculptors and painters. Each Dutch city had its own self-governing guild which protected and promoted local artists and artisans. The purpose of a guild was to limit the import of artworks from outside the city. Thus, only local Guild of Saint Luke members could sell their paintings in the city. Only during annual fairs could outsiders sell artwork. In exchange for this protection, members had to pay dues and to serve an apprenticeship, lasting from four to six years.
During the apprenticeship students learned the preparation of paints and painting techniques and were introduced to the world of ideas and artistic theories. At this time paints were produced by the artist, a process which involved grinding the pigments by hand. This time-consuming task was often left to the apprentice. Training was also expensive. In Delft, for example, the apprentice who lived with his parents paid between 20 and 50 guilders per year, while a school education generally cost two to six guilders a year. And during the entire four to six years, the apprentice was unable to sign or sell the work he produced; all the work he created became the property of his master. At the same time, however, the apprentice was exposed to artists, patrons, and men of culture. He learned from the many lively discussions which took place in the studio, ranging from artistic debates to exchanges of information about the art market. Once the apprentice gained the required mastery of his specialty and only after he had passed the entrance exam of the guild could he sign and sell his own artwork.
About 17th Century Holland and the Genre of Still Life:
The Dutch Republic won independence from the Spanish in 1581 and was officially recognized in 1648. The Dutch Republic was the first Protestant state in Europe and become a major maritime power. Holland’s economic and social growth led to the formation of a wealthy middle class, who replaced the Catholic Church as primary art patrons.
The desire for artworks reflecting their new status resulted in the emergence of landscapes, portraits, still life and genre (scenes of everyday life) while letting go of religious, historical and mythological subjects. Seascapes and landscapes reflected the Republic’s hard-won independence. Still lifes recorded their environment as well as the riches which poured into their ports. Portraits documented the growing importance of the middle class. Genre paintings conveyed the experience of everyday life in Holland. Most artists specialized in one of these fields due to the open art market in which all artists were involved. The unifying factor among landscape, still life, portraits and genre was realism. During the Age of Reason art, science and philosophy believed that reality was the basis of knowledge.
The first independent still life paintings appeared in the second half of the 16th century. Until that time still life elements had been included in paintings only as decorative or symbolic elements. The term still life, in fact, was not used until the mid-17th century. For the first hundred years, such paintings were called “kitchens,” “fruit markets,” or even “little things.” A pioneer of still life and genre paintings was the artist Pieter Aertsen who created large “market” and “kitchen” still lifes which also included figures. His work and that of his pupil and nephew Joachim Beuckelaer inspired other artists to develop similar works.
In the 17th century, there was so much demand for still life paintings that artists became specialists, such as floral, “breakfast or banquet,” vanitas, ““market and kitchen” and fancy “pronk” (display of riches). Vanitas still lifes which focused on the fleeting nature of earthly pleasures and possessions were a specialty of Leiden artists while banquet or breakfast still lifes were more common in the city of Haarlem. In the mid-1660s, when Amsterdam became the social, political and financial capital of the Dutch Republic, pronk still lifes became popular. These featured imported foodstuff and expensive objects like Chinese porcelain, Venetian glassware and silver-gilt cups and trays. All still lifes attested to the rich lifestyle of the wealthy middle class.
Title and date: The Vegetable Seller, 17th century
Artist and dates: Cornelis Lelienbergh, 1626 – 1676
In Lelienbergh’s The Vegetable Seller an older woman invites the viewer with her open hand to see the riches of produce she has to offer: cauliflower, artichokes, onions, cabbage and lettuce. In her other hand she holds a bunch of grapes. The grapes, cabbage, onions and lettuce were common vegetables, fruits of the fields. The cauliflower and artichokes were expensive novelties in the 16th century. By the 17th century they may have become less expensive but were still probably not as common as the other vegetables. At the very least the painting gives us a picture of the abundance and variety of vegetables in the life of the prosperous Dutch 17th century burgher.
The overall dark tonality of the painting is enlivened by patches of bright color: the white of the cauliflower, the light green of the cabbage, and the light yellow brown of the onions. These colors attract the eye by contrast and lead the viewers around the painting so that nothing is missed. The cauliflower, in fact, is the color which makes the viewer aware of the vegetable seller whose white cuffs and neckpiece pick up the brighter white of the vegetable. Otherwise the seller in her dark hat and the earthy colors of her dress appears to disappear into the dark background.
In the 15th and 16th centuries many paintings contained still life elements with embedded symbolic and religious meanings. For example, the presence of a lily in a painting of the Annunciation referred to the purity of the Virgin. Seventeenth century vanitas still lifes included skulls, watches and smoking candles which carried traditional meanings. All of these objects symbolized the fleeting nature of earthly pleasures and the idea that all life was subject to death. As the 17th century continued, many of these traditional meanings became lost in favor of the aesthetic pleasures of the depictions of the objects themselves and their elaborate compositions. In Lelienbergh’s still life the variety and abundance of foodstuffs appears to be the message. However, the woman holds aloft a bunch of grapes, the traditional symbol for the wine/blood of Christ. Is this gesture a remnant of the admonition to value the eternal above the daily diversions of this earthy life OR simply as a bunch of beautiful grapes?
Bernard S. Myers, McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Art, Volume 3. McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1969.
www.oxfordartonline.com “Salomon van Ruysdael” 2/12/09.
www.metmuseum.org “Still-Life Painting in Northern Europe, 1600-1800” 1/28/09.
www.nga.gov “Dutch and Flemish Painting of the 16th – 17th Centuries” 1/28/09.
www.clevelandart.org “Captured Reality, Past Exhibition” 2/25/09.
Reindert Falkenburg, “Matters of Taste: Pieter Aertsen’s Market Scenes, Eating Habits, and Pictorial Rhetoric in the Sixteenth Century,” presented at the Annual Conference of the College Art Association, Washington, D C, February 1991.
www.essentialvermeer.com “The Saint Luke’s Guild of Delft” 2/26/09.