Claesz is a master of still life painting. He presents a highly naturalistic scene yet his work is filled with symbolic references. His objects reflect the grand and glamorous but also remind us of the inevitable passing of time (the watch in this painting and the nuts cracked open), and its link to human mortality (many of his paintings include a human skull). When I saw this painting at Vassar's gallery, I was struck by the extraordinary technique, the amazing use of light and dark, and of course the reflections seen on the metal and glass surfaces. I am fascinated by what we see both "on its own" and through something else.
This reproduction of Claesz's painting has hung in my studio for nearly three years. One recent day, it made it's way off the wall and came to pay a visit by my easel. I set up a new still life and enjoyed how Claesz's work inspired my choices.
But then, the connection with Claesz began to weaken. Try as I might, I couldn't put in as many objects as he had without the painting becoming oppressive. And I couldn't make it as dark as he had. Three hundred plus years have done a lot for lighting. Our eyes are not accustomed to seeing things in such a dark space as his. And then there are those specific objects. I couldn't imagine serving and or painting Claesz's roasted bird, with lumps of fat under the crispy skin and head and feet still attached. Also, the symbolic value of many of his items would escape most current viewers. I doubt that anyone looking at my pistachio nuts (right lower side of painting) would think of the passage of time and mortality.
So, along with the many links across the long sweep of the history of still life painting, there are differences. I think we can celebrate both.