Banquet Still Life (1667) is an emblematic example of the popular Pronk still life genre of the Dutch Golden Age. Presenting a highly realistic depiction of a sumptuous feast, replete with exotic delicacies and costly tableware, the painting suggests the increase of wealth and power in the latter half of the 17th century, while also hinting, through carefully placed symbols, at luxury’s possible pitfalls.
Mouse symbolizes decay, destruction and, hence, the inevitable passage of time.
Oysters, considered an aphrodisiac in the 17th century, symbolize the sense of taste as well as the transitory nature of sensual desire.
Grapes represent fertility and salvation in their symbolic link to the blood of Christ, but also are reminiscent of the dangers of debauchery.
Pocket watch symbolizes the brevity of earthly existence.
Lemon is linked in Christian tradition to fidelity and, therefore, to the figure of the Virgin. In Abraham van Beyeren’s time, the lemon was an imported fruit, thus connoting luxury.
Half-peeled Lemon stands for casual excess, and so serves as a call for moderation, warning that life is not only sweet, but sour as well.
Knife suggests the transience of human life.
Brass serving stand serves as a symbol of earthly luxury.
Peaches are a symbol of salvation and truth, as well as fecundity.
Peaches, split open, suggest human excess and frailty and, therefore, mortality.
Plums are symbols in Christian tradition of loyalty, while in Van Beyeren’s time they were expensive delicacies, suggesting a costly pleasure.
Orange represents in Christian tradition purity, but may also connote the fall of Man. In Van Beyeren’s time, the orange recalled luxury and encouraged temperance.
Lobster suggests abundance and earthly prosperity, but may also warn of the dangers of gluttony.
Silver platter recalls ostentatious wealth and worldly success.
Two Roemers (Dutch glass goblets) symbolize worldly delights, but also suggest salvation, recalling the Communion cup.
Silver bowl with vine ornamentation suggests bounty and material success, while the leaf design may recall, according to Christian tradition, the connection between a tender God (the vine keeper) and his people (the vines).
Brass tray is a receptacle for nature’s wealth.
Gilt and silver dish suggest wealth and ostentation, while the forms of fish and clamshell recall the bounty of the sea.
Covered tall wine goblet (Pokal) represents earthly luxury, but is also linked to the Eucharist and, therefore, to Christ’s divinity.
Bread is reminiscent of the blessing of Christ, so suggests the importance of morality over ostentatious pursuits.
Cherry stands for fleeting sensual pleasure, but also the sweetness of good works.
Chinese porcelain bowl with citrus fruit suggests the exotic spoils of geographic expansion.
Gourd is symbolic of the resurrection in early Christianity, but here recalls ornamentation and casually pursued luxury.