Since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by the opulent “banquet,” or pronk still life paintings that were briefly popular in the Dutch Republic. In the latest issue of the Revue d’art canadienne / Canadian Art Review (also known as RACAR), I consider why painters trained their meticulous capacities for observing and rendering on these piles of luxury goods. From the introduction:
As this study suggests, profuse naturalistic detail loaded these works with a visual excess meant to appeal to spectators informed by new methods of natural inquiry, keenly attuned to technical craftsmanship, and inclined to the thrall of visualizing economic affluence. As a representational mode, the naturalism manifested in pronkstilleven was itself a luxury commodity invested with a social capital that exceeded even the value of the painter’s skill, materials, and labour.