Still Life - Sixteenth Century

Sixteenth Century

The 16th century witnessed an explosion of interest in the natural world and the creation of lavish botanical encyclopædias recording the discoveries of the New World and Asia. It also prompted the beginning of scientific illustration and the classification of specimens. Natural objects began to be appreciated as individual objects of study apart from any religious or mythological associations. The early science of herbal remedies began at this time as well, which was a practical extension of this new knowledge. In addition, wealthy patrons began to underwrite the collection of animal and mineral specimens, creating extensive "curio cabinets". These specimens served as models for painters who sought realism and novelty. Shells, insects, exotic fruits and flowers began to be collected and traded, and new plants such as the tulip (imported to Europe from Turkey), were celebrated in still life paintings. The horticultural explosion was of wide spread interest in Europe and artist capitalized on that to produce thousands of still life paintings. Some regions and courts had particular interests. The depiction of citrus, for example, was a particular passion of the Medici court in Florence, Italy. This great diffusion of natural specimens and the burgeoning interest in natural illustration throughout Europe, resulted in the nearly simultaneous creation of modern still life paintings around 1600.

By the second half of the 16th century, the autonomous still life evolved. Gradually, religious content diminished in size and placement in these painting, though moral lessons continued as sub-contexts. An example is "The Butcher Shop" by Joachim Beuckelaer (1568), with its realistic depiction of raw meats dominating the foreground, while a background scene conveys the dangers of drunkenness and lechery. Annibale Carracci’s treatment of the same subject in 1583 also called Butcher's Shop begins to remove the moral messages, as did other "kitchen and market" still life paintings of this period.

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Famous quotes by sixteenth century:

    April is in my mistress’ face,
    And July in her eyes hath place,
    Within her bosom is September,
    But in her heart a cold December.
    —Unknown. Subject #4: July Subject #5: September Subject #6: December. All Seasons in One. . .

    Oxford Book of Sixteenth Century Verse, The. E. K. Chambers, comp. (1932)