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Feast & Fast

The Art of Food in Europe, 1500 – 1800

169: Still life with a lobster

Still life with a lobster In early modern Europe, there was no choice but to eat seasonally, with food supply constrained by the seasons. With breathtaking realism, this painting combines foodstuffs that could never have been eaten at the same time, portraying Summer fruit with Autumn harvest produce. The lobster – symbol of luxury – was at its best from mid-March to mid-July, the shrimps at their largest and most succulent in the Autumn. While most of the food is in perfect condition, the cherry leaves have blight, which may indicate that this food fantasy was also meant to be read as a moralising vanitas – an image intended to recall the fleeting nature of life.

Joris van Son (1623 – 67) Antwerp, Belgium, 1660 Oil on canvas

C.B. Marlay Bequest, 1912 (M.76)

Conserved by Molly Hughes-Hallett at the Hamilton Kerr Institute

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