Still-Life with a Late Ming Ginger Jar
Oil on canvas, 77 x 65,5 cm
Museum of Art, Indianapolis
by Willem Kalf (b. 1622, Rotterdam, d. 1693, Amsterdam)
Still-life painting occasionally registers the pride that contemporaries took in global trade and colonial endeavour. Like the botanical gardens and finest collections, still-lifes gathered disparate objects from all reaches of Dutch trade, and brought them home, re-presenting them in European terms of science and collecting, without specific concern about their origin. In this painting of fine household items, Willem Kalf effortlessly combined Venetian and Dutch glassware, a recently made Chinese jar for luxury ginger, a Dutch silver dish, a Mediterranean peach, and a half-peeled lemon, the object of citrus trade and of medicinal treatises. He displayed them on an Indian floral carpet, in a dramatic spotlight that invites contemplation and admiration, for the fine wares as well as the artist's recrafting of them. Kalf's jewel technique evokes their value and unifies them in an arrangement, that, however lifelike for each individual object, is clearly pictorial.