Breakfast Piece by Pieter Claesz.
To mark the 25th anniversary of CODART, each month we introduce you to one of the hundred exceptional masterpieces of early modern Dutch and Flemish art (1350-1750) selected by museum curators from around the world for the CODART Canon. This time, all eyes are on Breakfast Piece by Pieter Claesz.
Pieter Claesz. (Berchem 1597/1598 – 1660/1661 Haarlem), Breakfast Piece, 1636, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam © Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam / photo by Studio Tromp
A small panel, muted colours, subdued light and a few objects: with economical means, Pieter Claesz. created a whole world that evokes our senses and captivates us with all its opposing facets. We enjoy foaming beer, soft velvet, a glittering herring and a crispy bun.
There is geometric rigour in the beaker’s waffle pattern and the creases of the linen, as well as painterly disorder in the scattering of nutshells and the diagonal of the knife. The fragility of the glass contrasts with the solidity of the tin. We see a luxurious white flour bun and a humble herring.
The close-up view creates intimacy, but the reflection of a window hints at the outside world.
Pieter Claesz.’s work is a symbol of his time, yet it is also timeless: an embodiment of the modern philosophy of mindfulness. Admittedly, many of these aspects apply to still lifes in general. And of course, I admire Claesz.’s pronkstilleven (showcase still life) in Cologne, but the artful balance and minimalist purity place this Rotterdam ontbijtje (breakfast) in a league of its own.
Anja Sevčík, Head of the Department of Baroque Painting, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Foundation Corboud, Cologne
details of Breakfast Piece © Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam / photo by Studio Tromp