Still Life With Hazelnuts, Grapes And Oysters
Oil on panel, 41.9x58.4cm
Signed and dated upper right: Laurens Craen Fecit 63
Laurens Craen was a painter of specially designed compositions where objects, luxurious food items and wine were artistically arranged. Laurens Craen was active in Antwerp, The Hague and Middelburg (Zeeland) from 1638 to 1664. In 1654 he became a member of the Middelburg Guild of St. Luke. His earlier works from the mid-1640s show the strong influence of Jan Davidsz de Heem (1606 – 1684), suggesting that he might have been associated with de Heem’s studio during that time. Certain motifs, although small, persist in Craen’s works. One such motif is the use of impasto technique to create the small bumps along the lemon rind’s surface. The grainy and studded texture of the lemon rind in his works physically stands out from the panel, as if taken directly from nature, creating a realistic illusion described in painting technique as trompe l’oeil.
Paintings by Craen are quite rare, as only approximately twenty works are known. His beautiful still lifes are represented in the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Sydney, Australia, as well as in private foundations and private collections all over the world.
This work, “Still Life With Hazelnuts, Grapes And Oysters” is a typical example of his still lifes. The small-format painting depicts fruit and various other delicacies like nuts and seafood, and tableware like the silver tray and glass tumblers on a table. These items often symbolized wealth and abundance, creating an atmosphere of a true feast.
Here the master’s painting technique is expressed by the soft diagonal light, the clearly manifested plasticity of shapes against the stone niche. Also the faded yet vibrant colours are typical features of Craen’s still lifes. The grapevine that crowns the composition is actually considered to be the author’s signature motive.
Still lifes known as breakfasts (or lunches) provide inspiring material to art historians for their interpretation. In some sense they are like wordless stories, the symbolism of which inspired the people of those times to contemplate in silence and set their values right.
Several motives of Laurens Craen’s still lifes can be interpreted in the light of the ideology of Christian teachings. Wine and bread signify the Eucharist, referring to humble gratitude; herring is a symbol of abstinence while plums represent the salvation of Christians from sin after their death. Nuts emphasise the Christ’s dual nature, being both divine and human, while oysters and shellfish symbolise the human sins. The bunch of grapes denotes Christ’s blood and his redemptive sacrifice.
Baron Axel Reedtz-Thott, Gavn¢,
Art gallery of Richard Green, London, 1998,
Private collection, New York,
Collection of Art-Life Projekt, Tallinn,
Private collection, Switzerland
Grapes, Peaches, Hazelnuts And Redcurrants With A Brimstone Butterfly And A Bumblebee, Jan van KESSEL
Still life with a Façon de Venice glass in a Bekerschroef, a pewter jug, a silver cup and plate with bread roll and knife, on a table with a partly draped white cloth, Jan Jansz. den UYL THE ELDER
Osias BEERT THE ELDER, Still life with oysters