Active 17th Century
Canvas 125,5 x 104,5 cm
Signed and dated 1655
This painting is an outstanding example of a pomp still life, which is a genre that appeared in the second part of the 17th century and was highly revered. Mr. Arthur Wheelock, the curator of the Northern European Art Collection at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, saw the painting and approved it as a masterpiece. He is of the opinion that Antoni de Lust was most certainly one of van Aelst's pupils.
There is not much known about the artist Antoni Hendricksz. de Lust. He was born around 1590 and is listed as kunstschilder and was presumably active in Amsterdam from 1617 to 1636.
A. Bredius was able to discern Antoni de Lust as teacher of Gerrit Willemsz. van der Horst (1626):
»20 juli 1626 besteedt Willem Jansz bij Anthony Hendriksz (Lust), Schilder van 't Oude Mannenhuys, zijn zoon Gerrit Willemsz, out omtrent 14 jaren, voor ses jaren, omme hem te leren de cunste van Schilderen voor soo veele hy sal cunnen begrypen. Beloovende hy Anthony Hendricksz syn beste t doen, om dn voorsz. sijnen leerknecht te leren ende t'onderwysen, sonder voor hem yets de cunste van schilderen aengaende te verbergen, hem te geven cost, dranck, wasschen, huysvestinghe enz. Na de 6 jaren, tot afscheid: een mantel van 20 gulden of het geld en een "eerlyck" pak kleeren met "coussens, schoenen en hoet". Onderteekend Willem Jansen Antoni Hendricksz Lust.«
Antoni de Lust also collaborated with Marcus Tollingh and was mentioned in 1636 as a teacher of Klaes Jansz Wyttmont.
This painting is an opulent still life. The composition is based on a marble table, which divides the painting two thirds of the way down the canvas. Blue drapery and a red stool dominate the lower part of the composition. This brings together not only the wonderful contrast of the colours blue and red, but also a subtle combination of two fabrics: the soft and shimmering velvet of the stool, as well as the rich blue cloth draping from the table. The centre of the composition is dominated by the various fruits, a gold goblet, a Roemer as well as a very delicate venetian glass protruding from the pile of fruits on the left.
Bearing in mind that the composition has to be seen as a vanitas still life, the symbolic as well as compositional structure has to be seen as charged with meaning in relation to excess represented. The confrontation between the apparently water filled glass and the tipped over golden beaker, is not only evidence of the painter’s skill at capturing contrasting materials - which he has already demonstrated (the velvet stool and the blue cloth) but also his own philosophical statement. The golden turned over goblet, topped with a delicate sculpture of Athena, seems to be about to fall from the marble table. Athena, the representation of wisdom and chastity has lost her place and gives in to ignorance and immorality. The fragile and precious glass beaker is a reminder of how fragile and fugitive the mantle of human being is. Antoni de Lust brilliantly incorporates the motif of nosce te ipsum, by putting a portrait in the reflection on the glass goblet. As there is very little known about the artist it might be a self-portrait, but nonetheless it is not only a statement of subtlety concerning his skills as a painter, but also a refined statement of self-concept.
The left side of the table, covered by blue cloth, is given to various fruits. Bunches of grapes, a pomegranate, peaches and plums garlanded by branches of vine leaves. At the highest point of a branch, a vine leaf points to a delicate Venetian glass bottle, filled with red wine and topped a glass lid with a twisted glass finial with clear and blue glass ornamentation. The fruits themselves do not only represent wealth and prosperity they have other symbolic meaning. The peaches and plums represent eroticism, the grapes and peaches are a reminder of sin and the vine branches mean vitality - but a fading one, indicated by the browning of the leaves in certain places.
On the right side, almost merging into the background, a dark red curtain, bound by a cord can be seen. This painting represents an opulent invitation to take a place at the brim-full table of life and enjoy its pleasures before the curtain falls and ends the scene.
Private Collection, Austria