Pronkstilleven (Dutch for 'ostentatious', 'ornate' or 'sumptuous' still life) is a style of ornate still life painting, which was developed in the 1640s in Antwerp from where it spread quickly to the Dutch Republic.
A still life is a work of art depicting mostly inanimate subject matter, typically commonplace objects which are either natural or man-made.
Antwerp is a city in Belgium, and is the capital of Antwerp province in Flanders. With a population of 520,504, it is the most populous city proper in Belgium, and with 1,200,000 the second largest metropolitan region after Brussels.
Flemish artists such as Frans Snyders and Adriaen van Utrecht started to paint still lifes that emphasized abundance by depicting a diversity of objects, fruits, flowers and dead game, often together with living people and animals.
Frans Snyders or Frans Snijders was a Flemish painter of animals, hunting scenes, market scenes and still lifes. He was one of the earliest specialist animaliers and he is credited with initiating a wide variety of new still-life and animal subjects in Antwerp. He was a regular collaborator with leading Antwerp painters such as Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens.
Adriaen van Utrecht was a Flemish painter known mainly for his sumptuous banquet still lifes, game and fruit still lifes, fruit garlands, market and kitchen scenes and depictions of live poultry in farmyards. His paintings, especially the hunting and game pieces, show the influence of Frans Snyders. The two artists are considered the main inventors of the genre of the pronkstillevens, i.e. still lifes that emphasized abundance by depicting a diversity of objects, fruits, flowers and dead game, often together with living people and animals. Van Utrecht also painted a number of flower still lifes. He was a regular collaborator with leading Antwerp painters who had been pupils or assistants of Peter Paul Rubens, such as Jacob Jordaens, David Teniers the Younger, Erasmus Quellinus II, Gerard Seghers, Theodoor Rombouts, Abraham van Diepenbeeck and Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert.
The style was soon adopted by artists from the Dutch Republic.A leading Dutch representative was Jan Davidsz. de Heem, who spent a long period of his active career in Antwerp and was one of the founders of the style in Holland. Other leading representatives in Flanders and the Dutch Republic were Nicolaes van Verendael, Alexander Coosemans, Carstian Luyckx, Jasper Geeraards, Peter Willebeeck, Abraham van Beyeren and Willem Kalf.
Jan Davidsz. de Heem or in-full Jan Davidszoon de Heem, also called Johannes de Heem or Johannes van Antwerpen or Jan Davidsz de Hem, was a still life painter who was active in Utrecht and Antwerp. He is a major representative of that genre in both Dutch and Flemish Baroque painting.
Nicolaes van Verendael or Nicolaes van Veerendael was a Flemish painter active in Antwerp who is mainly known for his flower paintings and vanitas still lifes. He was a frequent collaborator of other Antwerp artists to whose compositions he added the still life elements. He also painted a number of singeries - scenes with monkeys dressed and acting as humans.
Alexander Coosemans was a Flemish Baroque painter specialized in still lifes of flower pieces, fruit, and inanimate subjects. He painted vanitas still lifes, pronkstillevens and game pieces.
Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts developed the style further by incorporating pronkstillevens in the trompe-l'œil compositions for which he was known. An example is his Silverware in an Open Cabinet at the Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent.
Trompe-l'œil is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions. Forced perspective is a comparable illusion in architecture.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium, is situated at the East side of the Citadelpark.
Pronkstillevens are usually interpreted as a form of vanitas painting that conveys a moral lesson. The various objects in the compositions serve as symbols that can be read as an admonition or a life lesson. The objects usually refer to the transience and emptiness of wealth and possessions and the ultimate extinction and emptiness of earthly life.
A vanitas is a symbolic work of art showing the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death, often contrasting symbols of wealth and symbols of ephemerality and death. Best-known are vanitas still lifes, a common genre in Netherlandish art of the 16th and 17th centuries; they have also been created at other times and in other media and genres.
For instance, roses are often used as a vanitas motif, as they recall that all life and earthly beauty are fleeting. Hourglasses are an admonition that life is fleeting and will end. Empty containers such as glasses or vases point to the emptiness of earthly wealth and aspirations. The paintings remind the viewer of the need to practice moderation and temperance.
Abraham Mignon or Minjon, was a still life painter. He is known for his flower pieces, still lifes with fruit, still lifes in forests or grotto as well as still lifes of game and fish and garland paintings. His works are influenced by those of Jan Davidszoon de Heem and Jacob Marrel.
Abraham Hendriksz van Beijeren or Abraham van Beyeren was a Dutch Baroque painter of still lifes. Little recognized in his day and initially active as a marine painter, he is now considered one of the most important painters of still lifes, and in particular still lifes of fish and so-called 'pronkstillevens', i.e. sumptuous still lifes of luxurious objects.
Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts or Gysbrechts was a Flemish painter working in Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Sweden in the second half of the seventeenth century. He specialised in trompe-l'œil, an artistic genre aiming to trick contemporary viewers into believing that the painted, two-dimensional illusions were real three-dimensional objects.
Hendrick Andriessen, known as Mancken Heyn was a Flemish still-life painter. He is known for his vanitas still lifes, which are made up of objects referencing the precariousness of life, and 'smoker' still lifes, which depict smoking utensils. The artist worked in Antwerp and likely also in the Dutch Republic.
Flemish Baroque painting refers to the art produced in the Southern Netherlands during Spanish control in the 16th and 17th centuries. The period roughly begins when the Dutch Republic was split from the Habsburg Spain regions to the south with the Spanish recapturing of Antwerp in 1585 and goes until about 1700, when Habsburg authority ended with the death of King Charles II. Antwerp, home to the prominent artists Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and Jacob Jordaens, was the artistic nexus, while other notable cities include Brussels and Ghent.
Joris van Son or Georg van Son was a Flemish still life painter who worked in a number of sub-genres but is principally known for his fruit still lifes. He also created flower still lifes, banquet still lifes, vanitas still lifes and pronkstillevens. He is known to have painted fish still lifes representing the Four Elements. He collaborated with figure artists on ‘garland paintings’, which typically represent a devotional image framed by a fruit or flower garland.
Carstian Luyckx, also known as the Monogrammist KL, was a Flemish painter and draughtsman who specialized in still lifes in various subgenres including flower still lifes, fruit still lifes, fish still lifes, pronkstillevens, vanitas still lifes, hunting pieces and garland paintings. He also painted animals and a few genre scenes. After starting his career in Antwerp he is believed to have worked later in France.
Jan Pauwel Gillemans the Elder was a Flemish goldsmith and still life painter who is known for his fruit still lifes, flower pieces, vanitas still lifes and pronkstillevens.
David Davidsz de Heem (1570–1632) was a Dutch Golden Age painter.
Franciscus Gijsbrechts, was a Flemish Baroque painter.
Peter Willebeeck or Petrus Willebeeck was a Flemish still life painter who was active in Antwerp in the second quarter of the 17th century. He is known for his fruit still lifes, vanitas still lifes, pronkstillevens and banquet pieces executed in a very delicate manner.
Jasper Geerards, Jasper Geerardi or Jasper Geeraerts was a Flemish painter who specialized in still lifes and in particular pronkstillevens. He was active in Antwerp and Amsterdam.
Cornelis de Bryer was a Flemish still life painter who was active in Antwerp in the 1650s. He is known for his fruit still lifes, vanitas still lifes and pronkstillevens.
Frans van Everbroeck was a Flemish still life painter who is known for his fruit still lifes, vanitas still lifes and pronkstillevens. He was active in Antwerp, Amsterdam and London.
Andries de Coninck or Andries de Koninck was a Flemish art dealer and still life painter active in Antwerp. He is known for his pronkstillevens, the sumptuous still lifes that were popular in Flanders and the Dutch Republic from the 1640s.
G. van Deynum was a still life painter active in Antwerp in the 1650s. Only a dozen works by his hand have been identified to date. Van Deynum painted banquet style still lifes and vanitas still lifes.