The Dutch Master Floris van Schooten devoted himself to ‘breakfast pieces’. Still lifes with food, such as these, were much in demand in the seventeenth century. In this ‘Golden Age’ Holland was rich and powerful, and the well-to-do citizens were increasingly interested in art in which this prosperity was visible. The still life eulogized life’s luxuries. Van Schooten’s contemporaries were aware that the exquisite meal in this painting also contains an admonishment. After all, foodstuffs are subject to decay, and so earthly pleasures are equally transient. But it is a gentle admonishment: in this breakfast the emphasis is on abundance. That abundance was due to trading with the Far East, the Chinese plate is a reminder of this.
In this still life Van Schooten displays his talent for rendering the texture and beauty of food very convincingly and in great detail. And yet, at the same time his still lifes are characterized by their simplicity. The colours are sober, mainly black, brown and yellow. And despite the table being richly decked with spices, we see no ornate beakers or silver dinnerware, as in the still lifes by, for instance, his contemporary Willem Claeszoon Heda.