A Dutch Breakfast


Floris van Schooten
Haarlem 1580/1600 – Haarlem 1656
Oil on panel
50 x 82 cm
Inventory number 836

Floris van Schooten, an artist from Haarlem, belonged to the first generation of specialist still-life painters. Over a hundred of his paintings have been preserved, mostly market and kitchen scenes, still-lifes with kitchen utensils or fruit, laid tables, breakfast scenes and small banquets. This Dutch Breakfast features a blackberry cake and other delicacies. Light falls onto the table from the left, as is apparent from the shadows cast by the plates, the knife and the apples to the right, and by the folds in the tablecloth. The smoked ham and the fruit have a slightly shiny appearance, and the green wineglass and silver salt tub with engraving also subtly reflect the light. Also note the reflection of the roll in the pewter plate and the nuance of colour and shape in the apples. This subtle use of reflections and shading all enhance the illusion of depth and liven up the composition. The blade of the knife, between the China plate with butter and the pewter dish with bread, bears the letters FVS, the artist’s monogram.

Dairy upon dairy

Van Schoten liked to paint ‘mountains of cheese’, as it were. The large cheese in this composition is probably Gouda, the smaller one would appear to be Edam. The combination of salt and cheese may be a reference to the recommendation to begin a meal with the former and to end it with the latter. The combination of cheese and butter is suggestive of excess. As the old Dutch saying has it: ‘Dairy upon dairy, is the devil’s work’.

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