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The Cover
November 21, 2001

Still Life With Oranges and Goblet of Wine

Author Affiliations
 

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2001;286(19):2369. doi:10.1001/jama.286.19.2369

Be the kitchen fat or be the kitchen thin, the food still life was a staple of 17th-century Dutch painting. If the larder was rich, the table was laden with seafood—oysters, lobsters, mussels—with golden goblets and silver platters, with sparkling crystal and claret wine, perhaps a partridge or two, a cut ham, certainly some grapes on the vine, and all of these objects tastefully arranged on a table covering of a snowy cloth or a luxurious Turkish carpet; but if the larder was thin, the table would be wooden and bare, containing nothing more than a bit of cheese, a sliced herring, a humble drinking glass, some beer. But the genius lavished on the latter was no less than that lavished on the former. Whether it be the pearly skin of a fish or the rubiness of burgundy, the artist's purpose was the same: to capture light and to embody it in the objects of daily existence; the objects were transformed into corporeal symbols of what nourishes life, inner as well as outer. Sometimes, especially in the more opulent banquet pieces, the Dutch painters left a curl of lemon peel to spiral across the white cloth, a reminder, perhaps, that one is nourished by the bitter as well as by the sweet.

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