Clara Peeters, a Flemish artist working at the turn of the 17th century, painted meticulously detailed still life paintings influenced by Osias Beert. Her skill in rendering texture is evident in the rough and crumbly cheese and the smooth cherries. Her work is often thought to contain religious iconography and using the commonly associated symbolic meanings of the food depicted in Still Life with Cheeses, Artichoke and Cherries, the painting moves beyond a simple still life to a complex religious message.
The dominating forms of the cheese and butter shavings denoting motherhood are coupled with a bread roll that references the Eucharist. A trio of cherries reinforce the image of Christ via their iconographic meaning of the Passion. These items are gathered on the right side of the canvas, with a knife – often used to represent betrayal – dividing the composition and the food. The items on the left have negative connotations when contrasted with the icons of Christ and the Holy Mother on the right. The artichoke was considered an aphrodisiac and therefore could be linked with the sin of lust. The cherries on the left of the painting are in opposition to those on the right because they sit upon a mirrored plate. Mirrors were used to reference the sin vanity as well as lust (1). Salt was used to denote wisdom and appears to sit upon a scale – perhaps to suggest to the viewer to lead a balanced life in order to evade the perils of sin.
1 can water-packed artichokes, drained
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
Mis the white wine vinegar, lemon zest and garlic in a small bowl. Add the drained and rinsed artichokes and toss in the vinegar mixture. Set aside for half an hour.