JORIS VAN SON
(Antwerp, 1623 – 1667)
A Still life “Pronk”, including A Gilt Cup and Cover, a Chinese Blue and
White Bowl, and various Fruits, on a Draped Table.
Oil on panel
19 x 24 ½ inches (48.3 x 62.2 cm)
Signed lower left
Private Collection, Mid-West U.S.A.
Joris van Son was a Flemish painter principally known for his tabletop, or pronk still lives. It is unclear under which artist he trained, but his work shows a strong influence of Jan Davidsz. de Heem, a Dutch painter active in Antwerp mid-1630s. Van Son became a master in Guild of Saint Luke of Antwerp in the guild year 1643/1644. While earlier pronkstillevens tended to incorporate Vanitas elements warning their audience of the dangers of the Vita Carnale (“Life of the Flesh”), later Flemish table top still lives were celebrated as much for their mastery of technique; the combination of varied surfaces and textures allowed a greater display of artistic skill. At the same time it’s message extolled a balance of abundance and moderation, juxtaposing the exotic and the humble.
The tall gilt German Pokal, or cup and cover, and the blue and white Chinese Wan-Li bowl, both items of artistic rarity feature in other Van Son works, as do the herring and bread loaf. Bread is a common symbol of Christ’s body, and the taking of the Eucharist. Walnut’s meaning are less well understood, but were referred to by St. Augustine as also being reflective of Christ’s Passion, and also thought of as meaning fertility, and endurance. Next to the walnuts are a little-known fruit called medlar which were said to be best when eaten after as process known as “bletting”, or allowing to ripen to rotting. In this way, it symbolized sin, specifically prostitution, or “premature dissolution”. Chaucer referred to it when he wrote, “We olde men, I drede, so fare we: Til we be roten, kan we nat be rype”. These paintings were to be “read” not so much as a puzzle with a correct solution, as a poem, with various interpretations.