Noble Couple at the Market
(c. 1650), oil, canvas, 115,5 x 171 cm
These canvases, which are pendants, were painted for a private client as decoration for some dining room, and they are variants on the same motif. Both represent a wooden market table on which various fruits are arranged, while on the ground there are all sorts of vegetables. In the first painting a lady and a gentleman, accompanied by a black servant and a little dog, are choosing fruit which a market woman is offering for sale. In the second picture a lady is buying a melon from two sellers. The buildings in the background are typical of the Flemish country. The paintings are characteristic of the sort of painting which was popular in Antwerp during most of the 17th century, which shows market scenes combining figures and large still lifes of different things (fruit, vegetables, fish, meat). Pictures of this type were usually painted by two artists: one painted the figural part, while the other was a master of still-lifes: even great painters collaborated in this sort of work.
The canvases exhibited here are modest examples of this type of painting and their authorship is still uncertain. It could be that in this case both the figures and the still lifes are the work of the same hand. We must emphasise that depictions of this sort of vegetables, and in particular fruit, have much in common with the works of Jan van Kessel the Elder (1626–1679), who headed a very active workshop.
We can date these pieces to between 1650 and 1660. They are progressive examples of their kind in which realistic accents are tempered in a decorative direction. This is further emphasised by the rich, expensive porcelain dishes in which the fruit on the market tables is arranged quite unnaturally. The Landesmuseum Joanneum in Graz holds two paintings of the same title and the same size, Fruit Seller at the Market, oil on canvas, 115 x 171 cm, Inv. Nos. 506 and 673, which are by the same hand as our paintings (although two painters may have collaborated on the works). The pictures in Graz derive from the same model, but there are considerable differences in detail, especially as regards the figures and the still-lifes.
Preservation: Good. Cleaned in 1988, Kemal Selmanović.
Provenance: Unknown. After World War II in Brdo Castle near Kranj; entrusted by the Government of Slovenia to the Narodna galerija in 1986.
Exhibition: 1989, Ljubljana, Nos. 22 and 23.
Lit.: Zeri and Rozman 1989, p. 124, Cat. and Fig. Nos. 22 and 23.