From 9 March through 25 June 2017 the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague presents
Slow Food. Still Lifes of the Golden Age, the first exhibition to be devoted to the development of still lifes depicting prepared food - called meal still lifes - that were created in Holland and Flanders from 1600 onwards. The cornerstone of the exhibition is a masterpiece acquired by the museum in 2012,
Still Life with Cheeses, Almonds and Pretzels by Clara Peeters. Alongside this work the exhibition also features masterpieces from the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, Washington's National Gallery of Art, Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum and others.
Meal still lifes
The meal still life - a subset of the genre that shows prepared food laid out on a table without figures in the composition - originated around 1600 with painters in Antwerp such as Clara Peeters and Osias Beert. Haarlem-based painters such as Floris van Dijck and Nicolaes Gillis followed them shortly thereafter. Meal still lifes showing richly set tables piled high with tempting morsels and precious objects became increasingly popular in the first decades of the seventeenth century. Various artists eagerly devoted themselves to depicting the objects on display in great detail. The exhibition in the Mauritshuis features paintings from the early years of this genre, the period 1600-1640.
From 1600 onwards, richly set tables piled high with tempting morsels and precious objects became a popular artistic theme. The detailed depiction of food, fine silver and glassware laid out on the table was a subject favoured by various painters. The Mauritshuis traces the development of this genre through a selection of some twenty paintings. The earliest meal still lifes came from Antwerp, where they were executed by artists such as Clara Peeters and Osias Beert. At the same time the genre flourished in the Northern Netherlands thanks to the work of Haarlem-based painters like Floris van Dijck and Nicolaes Gilles.
The masters of the meal
The paintings are a feast for the eye. The masters of the meal still life opted for delicacies such as fish, oysters, prawns, cheese, charcuterie, bread and titbits such as olives or nuts. Arranged artfully between the items of food are fine glassware, gilded goblets, pottery jugs or oriental porcelain, all rendered in the finest detail. Peeters'
Still Life with Cheeses, Almonds and Pretzels, for example, lovingly depicts the crumbly texture of the ripened cheeses, the creaminess of the butter curls shaved from the pat and the delicate play of reflected light on the knife. Peeters' paintings are a precursor to later works such as the panel by Pieter Claesz donated to the Friends of the Mauritshuis Foundation by Willem Baron Van Dedem. The stacked cheeses seen in Peeters’ painting also feature in the work of Floris van Dijck, arranged on a meticulously painted damask napkin.
Mini food festivals
The museum will organise small-scale food festivals during the exhibition, which will centre on the delicacies depicted in the paintings. A range of activities focused on food and drink will also take place on Saturdays during March and April.
The Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, located at a unique 17th-century palace in The Hague, has the highest number of masterpieces per square meter in the Netherlands. The museum houses a world-famous collection of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. This exceptional collection offers an amazing overview of Dutch and Flemish paintings from 1400 to 1800, with works by painters such as Vermeer, Rembrandt, Rubens, Jan Steen, Frans Hals, Van Dyck and Adriaen Coorte.
Directions to the Mauritshuis
The Mauritshuis is located in the centre of The Hague and can easily be reached both by public transport and car. From Den Haag Centraal railway station it takes 10 minutes to walk to het Plein. Alternatively, trams 16 or 17 are one or two stops away. The Mauritshuis is easiest to reach by tram from Station Den Haag Hollands Spoor railway station: trams 1 and 9 (direction Scheveningen) and tram 16 stop within a few minutes' walk from the museum.
When travelling by car from the A4 (Amsterdam or Rotterdam) the A12 (Utrecht) or the N44 (Leiden), follow the signs for the City Centre and then the signs for het Mauritshuis. The most convenient place to park is in the Pleingarage next to the Mauritshuis or in the Malieveld and Den Haag Centraal New Babylon parking garages. Both garages are about a 10-minute walk from het Mauritshuis.