These strawberries in a Chinese porcelain bowl are painted on copper, which makes it look so bright it almost seems like the bowl is real porcelain, reflecting the light of the room.
It was painted by Frans Snijders in 1616, and is called: Still Life with Fruit, Porcelain and a Squirrel, oil on copper, and part of the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
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Amsterdam in the 17th century was a vibrant city with global connections. The largest and most powerful trade and shipping company in the world, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) filled Dutch homes with Asian porcelain, lacquer, sumptuous textiles, diamonds and spices.
Made of special, precious materials and adorned with intriguing exotic patterns no one had ever seen before, the Asian treasures caused a sensation in Amsterdam. With their color and richness, they aroused the curiosity and stimulated the imagination of the Dutch bourgeoisie. Very fine white porcelain with blue designs from China, boxes displaying excellent lacquer work and ivory from Japan, gem-studded jewelry from India and Indonesia, silk fabrics from Japan, remarkably shaped shells, black ebony, filigree from India… the Dutch gasped at the beauty of it all and enthusiastically incorporated these treasures into their hitherto more modest interiors. It was also remarkable that not only the super-rich could afford to buy these items, but also a large part of the growing middle class. All that precious luxury was shipped to Amsterdam – at that time ‘the world’s harbor’ – by the ‘world’s first multinational’, the Dutch East India Company.
Inspired by these novel imports, Dutch potters, textile designers and jewelers created works of art we now perceive as distinctly Dutch. Artists such as Rembrandt, Willem Kalf, Jan Steen and Pieter Claesz were also quick to incorporate these luxuries into their paintings.
Co-organized by the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, this exhibition of 170 superlative Asian and Dutch works of art explores the transformative impact that Asian luxuries had on Dutch art and life in the 17th century, bringing new perspectives on the Dutch Golden Age and its relationship to Asia.
At the moment it’s on show in the exhibition Asia > Amsterdam at Rijksmuseum until 17th January.
The exhibition Asia > Amsterdam will be on view in the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, US from February 27 till June 4, 2016.