Barent van der Meer - Still Life with Fruit, a Rummer and Birds
Barent van der Meer
Still Life with Fruit, a Rummer and Birds
Oil on canvas (relined). 108 x 92.5 cm.
Signed and dated lower left: B. VAN DER MEER 1686.
All manner of fruits are presented to the observer on a richly laid table - apples, peaches, red and white grapes piled high in a basket and a porcelain dish or scattered across the Oriental rug. On the left edge of the work, we see a lemon in a rummer glass with the peeled rind hanging elegantly over its brim. Various animals and birds perch and scuttle around amongst the fruit.
This work by Barent van der Meer is an impressive display of opulence. The artist brings the objects close to the beholder by cutting off the heavy, crumpled rug at the edge of the work. The piece is characterised by such dynamism that it almost contradicts the definition of “still life”: The blue and white porcelain dish is precariously tilted, the apple on the left almost falls from the table, a bird clings upside down from a slender vine branch. The sumptuousness of the arrangement is emphasised by the heavy blue curtain in the background, an attribute of courtly representation.
The vivid colours also underline the feeling of opulence: The blue parrot presiding over the scene, the shiny red apples, the yellow lemon peel, the green birds. However, the bright colours were not simply chosen for their own sake, but serve to convey the textures of the objects depicted, such as the pink of the fluffy peach skins or the yellow of the slightly wilted vine leaves.
Barent van der Meer (also known as Barend Vermeer) belonged to the generation of Dutch still life painters in the latter half of the 17th century who learnt the art of painting luxurious still lifes from artists such as Wilhelm Kalf. Born in Haarlem in 1659, van der Meer was probably taught to paint by Juriaen van der Streeck, but his career was sadly cut short by his death in 1695. As if to demonstrate that opulent still lifes such as this were his speciality, the artist signed this work in the border of the magnificent carpet, dating it to 1686.