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New Dutch still life painting acquired by Cleveland Museum of Art could get your juices going

December 18, 2018

New Dutch still life painting acquired by Cleveland Museum of Art could get your juices going

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Pliny the Elder wrote that the ancient Greek painter Zeuxis painted grapes so realistically that birds came to peck at them.

In similar fashion, visitors to the Cleveland Museum of Art’s newly reinstalled Northern European Galleries may salivate when they see “Still Life with Meat, Fish, Vegetables and Fruit,” by Flemish painter Jacob van Hulsdonck.

The museum announced the acquisition of the Hulsdonck in conjunction with the opening of the revamped galleries, which focus on art of the Netherlands, Germany, Central Europe, and France from about 1600 to 1725.

The purchase of the Hulsdonck, painted between 1615 and 1620, was funded by Shaker Heights residents Janice Hammond and Edward Hemmelgarn.

A museum document prepared by Betsy Wieseman, curator of European paintings and sculpture, described the work as “an early work by the artist in near pristine condition” that “will enable the CMA to represent more fully the development of still life painting in the Netherlands in the 17th century.”

The painting depicts a table festooned with a partially carved joint of meat, a plate of pig’s feet, a porcelain bowl filled with glistening raspberries, plus fresh artichokes, a slice lemon, a bunch of white asparagus, and yes, grapes.

Brightly lighted, and painted in a fresh, realistic palette that suggests cool northern light, the painting embodies “the exuberant excess that characterizes so-called pronk (showy) still lifes from the mid- to late 17th century,” Wieseman wrote.

The painting exemplifies the beginnings of the tradition.

Van Hulsdonck (1582–1647) was born in Antwerp and spent his youth in the Dutch city of Middleburg, Wieseman wrote. She described Middleburg as “a prosperous trading center and home to several botanical gardens,” which gave local artists “access to a wide array of foods, imported tablewares, and exotic flowers and plants may have encouraged the development of still life painting in the city.”

“Van Hulsdonck’s precise brushwork and vibrant palette entice the viewer, and invite appreciation of the artist’s ability to recreate the sensual and tactile qualities of this sumptuous feast,” Wieseman wrote. “It will be a compelling feature in the permanent collection display and provide rich opportunity for interpretive engagement.”

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