November 15, 2016 | Flemish banquets at the Prado
Clara Peeters was among the first and most accomplished painters to specialize in food-laden still lifes, replete with cheese and delicate biscuits, candy, and nuts as well as ornate vessels and floral bouquets. Revered especially for her playful use of light and reflection—for example her own distorted portrait shown on the polished surface of a gilded covered cup—the artist nevertheless remains a mysterious figure. Little is known about her other than that she is presumed to have been born in Antwerp and worked between about 1607 and 1621, enjoying, exceptionally for a woman of her era, high professional repute within her lifetime.
Still life with Flowers, Gilt Goblet, Almonds, Dried Fruits, Sweets, Biscuits, Wine and a Pewter Flagon by Clara Peeters, 1611. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.
The Prado now brings together twelve of the roughly thirty-five canvases that scholars agree can be attributed to Peeters for the second iteration of an exhibition shown at Antwerp’s Museum voor Schone Kunsten this past summer. Significantly, this is the first exhibition that the Prado has ever devoted to a female painter.
Featuring the four works owned by the museum, as well as loans from Antwerp and beyond, the exhibition offers the rare chance to contemplate the artist’s entire body of work. Decorative arts enthusiasts will find much to study in glassware, silver, cutlery, and other objects meticulously depicted by Peeters. Food historians can, through these canvases, learn about early forms of cheeses and other elegant nibbles. Art historians can consider her innovative and evocative compositions and complex intertwining of realism and symbolic content.
Still life with Fish, Candle, Artichokes, Crabs and Shrimp, by Peeters, 1611. Museo Nacional del Prado
Above and beyond their scholarly interest, Peeters’s paintings are notable for their sheer visual delight. An English-language catalogue accompanies the show.
The Art of Clara Peeters • Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid • to February 19, 2017 • museodelprado.es
November 9, 2016 | “I cannot bear tea, coffee, or chocolate, and cannot understand how anyone can like that sort of thing. I find that tea tastes of hay and rotten straw, coffee of soot, and chocolate is too sweet and soft. What I would willingly partake of, would be a good dish of Biran brot, or beer soup.” So wrote Charlotte Elizabeth, Princess Palatine, in December 1712, clearly not a fan of the once-exotic beverages that had been introduced to Europe by the early seventeenth century and were staple drinks for all levels of society by the end of the eighteenth. The Detroit Institute of Arts has organized a delightful and illuminating exhibition that explores the myriad ramifications that coffee, tea, and chocolate had on European culture. Included are not only examples of the wide array of accoutrements they spawned—from vessels for serving and storing to teaspoons, coffee grinders (Madame de Pompadour’s is included), and furniture such as a tea table by Adam Weisweiler—but also paintings and …» More
September 16, 2016 | There was an air of confident renewal at this year’s Biennale des Antiquaires, the grand and sophisticated Paris showcase for art, antiques, jewelry, and antiquities which, despite its name, will become an annual event next year under a new name to be announced in October.
A dramatic wood figure from Yimam, circa 1650, at the booth of Galerie Meyer. Photo by Marisa Bartolucci.
This was the first time in a number of years that the big jewelry houses weren’t present. In recent editions, the size of their booths had grown so large and lavish that they eclipsed the displays of the antiquaires. While haute joailleries was still on show, this time represented by smaller, younger, far more edgy, but just as luxe houses, the accent was back on the art, antiques, and antiquities, with more Old Masters paintings and drawings displayed than ever before, now that Paris Tableau, a fair specializing in that category merged with this edition of the Biennale. The resul…» More
July 26, 2016 | There’s trouble on Monument Avenue. This grand boulevard in Richmond, Virginia, is the symbolic heart of the city. It is leafy and quiet, and lined with grand architecture dating largely from the early twentieth century. As its name suggests, it also features a series of monuments. One is dedicated to the tennis player Arthur Ashe. All the others pay tribute to the leaders of the Confederacy—and that, of course, is where the problem comes in.
Confederate symbols, particularly the “Stars and Bars” battle flag, have become extremely controversial. The flash point was the tragic shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, in which nine African Americans were killed by a white supremacist. Across the South, activists demanded that Confederate imagery be removed from government flagpoles and from license plates. Many governors (including Terry McAuliffe of Virginia) concurred. For most Americans this seemed the right decision, and a long overdue one. Given that the Confederacy fought…» More
March 9, 2016 | Despite its dainty name the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association is not an outfit to be trifled with. Nor is it one to do anything by half measures. Founded in 1858, it is comprised of twenty-seven members, each representing a state in the union at that time, who approached and still approach the project of preserving George Washington’s estate with an almost military rigor. Mount Vernon was virtually empty when the association was formed; the members set about furnishing it by having the representative from each state adopt a room. In 1858 these representatives were the wives and daughters of powerful politicians, jurists, and cultural figures, and thus well positioned to locate and donate important objects. Alice Mary Longfellow, for instance, daughter of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, located George Washington’s desk and brought it back to the estate, where it remains today.
Mount Vernon Ladies Association Council of 1884. All photographs courtesy of the Mount …
[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi» View All