life by the Dutch painter Peter van Kessel (Antwerp, 1630/1640 – Ratzeburg,
1668), owned by the National Museum of Slovenia, has been in the National
Gallery of Slovenia since 1989 as a temporary deposit and on display in its
permanent collection. The painting depicts a table with food, various
vegetables and dead birds.
important element in the picture proves to be a majolica jug with a "hidden
coat of arms". This has so far most likely been overlooked due to darkened
pigments. It shows the arms of the influential Croatian noble family Zrinski
(Zriny), who, due to the role in the anti-Habsburg conspiracy, which included
Ban Peter Zrinski (1621–1671), Franz Christoph Frankopan (Frangipani)
(1643–1671), Styrian nobleman Hans Erasmus Count Reinstein and Tattenbach
(1631–1671), and Hungarian magnate Ferenc III Nádasdy (1623–1671), came to an
not much information about the painter Kessel. He is said to be native of Antwerp
(1630/40?), worked in Würzburg (1658), Bamberg (1658), Gdańsk, Lübeck (1668),
and died in Ratzeburg (1668). During his professional career he painted,
among other things, a stilllife for the Danish king (1665), and before that (1662) also four paintings for
the Herberstein family in Graz, now in the Regional Museum Maribor. The
commission for the mentioned still life from the Zrinski family, who had
regular contacts with Graz, could also have been made at that particular time.
Nicholas VII (1620–1664) and Peter Zrinski come into consideration as possible
clients. Both were politically influential individuals and had enviable
military careers and a great sense of art. This was reflected in the luxurious
furnishings of the family residences, the rich library and their and their
literary activities in poetry.
are not just a randomly depicted arrangement of objects, but often conceal a
deeper, symbolic meaning. Thus, the elements in Kessel's painting could also be
associated with the luxurious noble life of the Zrinski family. The lined table
not only shows a rich meal, but with cheese and majolica it also indicates a
lucrative economic activity in Zrinskis’ territories, wine- and cheese-making,
which provided the family with economic power and social status.