Setting the Table

by Alain Chivilò


The seventeenth century represented a flourishing in the society of today’s Netherlands, expanding knowledge but at the same time allowing the entry of new manufactures and necessities.

Porcelain from China, exotic fruits, tobacco, salt and artichokes from the Mediterranean enter the homes of wealthy families.

Art in Holland has involuntarily witnessed this passage through works dedicated to the themes of still lifes and everyday-convivial scenes. Precisely from the paintings, created during the seventeenth century, it becomes possible to outline this change displaying the use of new products alongside traditional national ones.

From 17th of November 2023, for a whole year, eight paintings from the Rijksmuseum represent the evolution of gastronomic culture in the Netherlands throughout the 17th century. At the Rijksmuseum Schiphol, between Lounge 2 and 3 after passing through security at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, the “Setting the Table” exhibition highlights various gastronomic and social aspects in the name of artistic expression.

Not only wealthy families, but also ordinary ones with different foods as bread, cheese and ham accompanied by a daily beer as in Man and woman at a meal by Gabriël Metsu. Continuing with other works, the aforementioned artichokes with carrots and cabbages depicted in Husbandman at a Cottage Door with a Seated Woman and Child by David Teniers II. Women as fish trade, Fish Market by Cornelis Dusart 1683, witnessing how female figures sold food products and basic necessities in Holland. Moreover, Still Life with Fruit by Pieter Gallis (1673) shows fruits from China and Persia and Still Life with Roemer, Flute Glass, Earthenware Jug and Pipes by Jan Jansz van de Velde III points out salt and tobacco.

Along the eight paintings present at the Rijksmuseum Schiphol, the first museum in the world opened in an airport which has allowed free viewing 24 hours a day for travelers since 2002, it becomes possible to focus on individual details, highlighting the mix between Dutch tradition and colonial expansionism. and the products that enriched the tables but also the uses and furnishings.


©AC, NDSL, AM, Alain Chivilo

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