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The Unexpected Guests - 16th and 17th Century Paintings

When planning an event, one of the biggest worries is those unexpected guests that seem to pop up at the last minute. These guests can also make an appearance in still-life paintings, specifically from the 16th and 17th centuries. Although we aim to comprehend why they make an appearance, like an uninvited guest, they always seem to add curiosity and appeal to the depiction. 
Below is a selection of paintings from the prestigious art fair in Maastricht (TEFAF) with depictions of tables and their uninvited guests. Many of the paintings at TEFAF are sold to private clients and the fair allowed us to look at many beautiful artworks before they got snatched. 
Floris van Schooten c.1585-1656 Haarlem 
A still life with Pie, a Tazza, Façon de Venise Glass, Wan-Li Bowls with fruits and vegetables, and a mounted glass c.1625 
Oil on panel 


This exquisite still life with vibrant colours shows a feast of fruits, vegetables, and a meat pie. The elongated format of the picture is rare and allows the painter to show the whole table with its interesting accoutrements. The fine glass is especially interesting as one is filled with wine while the other is laying flat with an intricate silver gilt body. The inclusion of Chinese bowls adds a sense of exoticism and prestige to the painting. 

Floris van Schooten was a member of a prosperous Catholic family who moved to Haarlem in 1612. He became a member of the Haarlem Guild of St Luke and served as dean of the painter’s guild which attests to his popularity and prosperity during his lifetime. 

Jan Brueghel the Elder, Brussels 1568 - 1625 Antwerp 
Venus in the Forge of the Vulcan (an allegory of Fire), signed and dated ‘Brveghel 1610) 
Oil on copper 


This oil on copper was a highlight at the fair, it is not only by one of the best-known painters of Flemish Renaissance art, but the subject matter is unique for this artist’s oeuvre. In the corner, the artist shows a table with all of the goldsmiths’ production including astonishing and impeccably rendered silver gilt cups and covers. On the goldsmiths’ table and bench, we also notice Chinese bowls which are being prepared to be mounted with silver gilt, as was the fashion in these in the 17th century. Particularly striking is the array of tools and objects depicted with precision. 



Giacomo Leigi, Liege 1605 - Milan 1645 
The Pantry. 
Oil on canvas

The large size (149 cm x 188 cm) and contrasting colours with the use of chiaroscuro and dramatic staging is typical of Baroque Italian paintings. The artist has included an array of dead animals from sea to turf and an even bigger selection of fruits and vegetables. Interestingly an onlooker is staring directly at us which engages us into the painting. 

Written by Stephanie Souroujon