Food in Art: de Groentevrouw

Posted by Tessa Nauta on April 8, 2020

Food is a source of life. It is no surprise that throughout time, eating habits have changed and adapted. Fortunately, a lot of these habits can be traced back through for example documentation, or, art. Paintings once served the function photography now has to capture. The Centraal Museum in Utrecht has a big part of her collection online. A splendid opportunity to see what food related paintings they have in their collection.

Source: Centraal Museum, image copyright CMU.

The title says it all with this one: De Groentevrouw, or the vegetable lady, is painted by Joachim Wteawel in around 1618. The description of the Centraal Museum says: “Figurative speech was in the seventeenth century a beloved subject to portray. This painting shows ‘a rotten apple in the basket, makes all the good fruit look bad” -- or ‘een rotte appel in de mand, maakt al het gave fruit te schand’. The evil is infectious and bad company ruins good morals. The young girl shows her mother the rotten apple. Moralpoet Jacob Cats describes this figurative speech in ‘de Spiegel van de ouden en nieuwen tijd’ (1632). He points out the fragile child soul, which is very susceptible to bad influences’. Besides all the underlying meanings, the very first thing that gets attention is all the vegetables. They are portrayed in abundance, and many of them can still be recognized after 400 years. Among them are garlic, lemons, apples, grapes and carrots. Might this be inspiration for a new recipe?