Sunday, May 29, 2011
Two Views of Food
In this simple scene, painted around 1660, painter Pieter de Hooch depicts "A Woman Preparing Bread and Butter for a Boy." Many Dutch painters of the era illustrated the interior of homes of middle class people, showing their daily lives in an idealized way. I love the details of the loaf of bread, the butter, and the glimpses of the scene outside the home.
In contrast: this detail from Aert de Gelder's large portrayal of "The Banquet of Ahasuerus" uses a dining scene to illustrate a decadent and possibly corrupt man -- though of course the viewer knows how the scene is redeemed in the remainder of the book of Esther from which the image is derived. This painting dates from around 20 years after the first.
Nikolaus Knupfer's "Solon before Croesus" (detail above) shows an even more decadent-seeming scene. I'm not sure I understand what the woman's role is in this Greek myth about King Solon, who told Croesus that poor people may be happier than kings. The painting dates from a few years prior to the first one.
Based on these three paintings, which I saw today at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and on many other still-lives, Biblical and mythological paintings, and commonplace interiors from the Dutch Golden Age, I have an idea that the simple lives of ordinary virtuous Dutch people in this era were favorably contrasted with the more luxurious lives of the rich rulers of the past. I believe that this was the era of the Dutch Republic, where egalitarianism was almost achieved for a while.
The Getty museum is situated on a beautiful hilltop with vast views out to sea and towards the mountains. Its many harmonious buildings, outdoor fountains and sculpture, and well-kept gardens are very impressive.