National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Larder Antonio Maria Vassallo (artist)
Genoese, c. 1620 - 1664/1673
The Larder, probably c. 1650/1660
oil on canvas
overall: 229.2 x 163.2 cm (90 1/4 x 64 1/4 in.) framed: 257.8 x 192.4 x 10.1 cm (101 1/2 x 75 3/4 x 4 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1961.9.91
On View
From the Tour: The Emergence of New Genres
Object 4 of 6

This painting, a compendium of motifs Vassallo used in other pictures, can be seen, and was perhaps considered by the artist himself, as a summing up of his achievements as a still-life artist. Each object has the same uncompromising conviction of reality. They are massed in one enormous display, but Vassallo turned an acute eye on each individually.

Visual description may not, however, be Vassallo’s only motive. Scholars have been tempted to find a symbolic meaning, pointing to abundance or perhaps to God’s provision for men’s needs, both physical and spiritual. In contemporary Dutch still lifes, viewers were reminded of the transience of wealth and life itself by such clues as vessels that were tipped over, insects, or overripe fruit. We do not find these signals here, however.

Another suggestion sees this as an allegory of the Four Elements: air, water, fire, and earth are each represented. The bounty of food includes fruits of the earth and sea as well as birds trapped from the sky. And in the background is the flare of a cooking fire. In collectors’ cabinets, such allegorical themes often provided the organizational principle for the display of wonders like fossils and minerals. Existence of these collections, in fact, helped create a demand for still-life painting.

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