A Fruit Still Life, Abraham van Beyeren

Abraham van Beyeren (Dutch, 1620/21–1690) 

A Fruit Still Life, c. 1655 

Oil on canvas 

Purchase, 2005 (13143.1) 

The 17th century in the Netherlands is often called the Dutch Golden Age for its advances in science, art, martial strategy, and international commerce. These achievements helped establish a strong middle class, whose members became the main beneficiaries of a vibrant Dutch economy. Still-lifes like this example by van Beyeren display the variety of tableware available to middle class consumers: Dutch silver, Venetian glass, and Chinese export porcelain (an example of which is on view nearby). These lavish material objects are balanced by an open pocket watch, ripe fruits, bread, and shellfish to remind one of the passage of time and the transience of earthly pleasures, themes that 17th-century Dutch viewers would have recognized as an important tenet of their Calvinist Protestantism.