Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sharing the Harvest - 1500s Marketing & Cooking & a little Religion - Joachim Beuckelaer c 1534-1574

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Joachim Beuckelaer (Flemish painter c 1534-c 1574) A Vegetable Market 1567


Joachim Beuckelaer (Flemish painter c 1534-c 1574) was the nephew & pupil of artist Pieter Aertsen, who also specialised in market scenes & genre paintings. He, too, responded to the growing demand of a prosperous merchants who wished to decorate their houses with works that reflected the secular character of their surroundings, while still reflecting a moral & religious significance.


Joachim Beuckelaer (Flemish painter c 1534-c 1574) The Vegetable Seller



Joachim Beuckelaer (Flemish painter c 1534-c 1574) Vegetable Seller


Joachim Beuckelaer (Flemish painter c 1534-c 1574) Market Scene 1563


Joachim Beuckelaer (Flemish painter c 1534-c 1574) Woman Selling Vegetables



Joachim Beuckelaer (Flemish painter c 1534-c 1574) Market Scene


Joachim Beuckelaer (Flemish painter c 1534-c 1574) Market Woman with Fruits, Vegetables, and Poultry


Joachim Beuckelaer (Flemish painter c 1534-c 1574) The Four Elements Air


Following are a set of 4 pictures which take as their theme the 4 elements of "Earth," "Water," "Air" & "Fire." Graphic representations of market produce for sale, to meet the most basic needs of all levels of society, are intertwined with relevant Biblical episodes intended to inspire the spiritual side of the viewers. Beuckelaer's series of paintings are among the earliest fusions of these themes.

In "Air" small creatures are offered for sale, some fowl still alive in large wicker baskets, others dead & ready for plucking. On the table in the foreground are rabbits, & to either side eggs in a basket & stacks of cheeses. But amid the tasks of everyday life, in the middle of the composition, at a distance, the Biblical prodigal son is shown.


Joachim Beuckelaer (Flemish painter c 1534-c 1574) The Four Elements Earth


In "Earth" the artist depicts market produce in great abundance. There is a well nearby. Man's needs for food & water are well provided for here, in fact, vegetables seem to tumble toward the viewer. Sixteen different varieties of vegetables & fruit crowd the scene. The tiny figures of the Holy Family, probably on their flight to Egypt, can be seen crossing a bridge in the far distance on the left. They go unnoticed by the market vendors, but the viewers are reminded that they are still there.


Joachim Beuckelaer (Flemish painter c 1534-c 1574) The Four Elements Water


In "Water," the artist & his vendors offer many varieties of fish to the viewer. Beuckelaer's use of steep perspective framing the street vista to the left. Reportedly it draws the viewers attention to the central arch where Christ is appearing to the disciples for the 3rd time after his Resurrection, to perform the miracle by which fish appear in hitherto empty nets. All of this to remind the viewer of who really provides earth's bounty & at what a great price.


Joachim Beuckelaer (Flemish painter c 1534-c 1574) The Four Elements Fire 1569 (Christ in the House of Martha and Mary)


Fire combines haunches of meat & poultry being prepared for cooking. Beyond the kitchen, Christ is shown with Martha and Mary. The message to the viewer seems to be that one should never be so intently focused on daily routines to forget to listen to the word.



Joachim Beuckelaer (Flemish painter c 1534-c 1574) The Cook


Joachim Beuckelaer (Flemish painter c 1534-c 1574) The well-stocked kitchen, with Jesus in the house of Martha and Mary in the background


Joachim Beuckelaer (Flemish painter c 1534-c 1574) Kitchen Interior 1560s



Joachim Beuckelaer (Flemish painter c 1534-c 1574) Christ in the House of Martha and Mary


It is speculated that Jesus' visit to the house of Martha & Mary illustrated one of the fundamental differences opposing Catholics & Protestants in the Flemish world at this time in history. The busy Martha believed that working hard to meet all of the physical needs of her guest Jesus would please him. She probably represents the Protestant side of the religious debates of the time. Mary just sat and listened to his every word, obviously placing a higher value on the contemplative life, representing the more traditional Catholic views. Here the artist relegates the teaching of the divine word to the back of the painting, devoting the entire foreground to an active, everyday life in a genre scene. The image with its moral & symbolic content is intended to remind the viewer to balance the excesses of the everyday world & the teachings of the Bible.


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