The Meatstall with the Flight into Egypt

Pieter Aertsen1551/1555


Maastricht, Netherlands

There are at least four versions of this composition. The probable prototype is in Raleigh, North Carolina. It is dated 10 March 1551, making it the earliest market and kitchen scene in Netherlandish art history. In view of his choice of subject and striking representation of fabrics, Aertsen is regarded as the founder of the still life painting. Displayed in the foreground are parts of a slaughtered cow. The debauched conduct of the peasants, in connection with the approaching winter festivities that followed slaughtering time in November, is expressed in the scene at the inn. The eggshells and mussel and oyster shells are well-known allusions to licentious behaviour. A biblical scene – the Flight into Egypt – has been added to the background left. The mercy of the Virgin Mary, who is sharing her last crust of bread with the beggar’s child, is in stark contrast to the miserliness of the church-going peasant community.


  • Title: The Meatstall with the Flight into Egypt
  • Creator: Workshop Pieter Aertsen
  • Date: 1551/1555
  • Location Created: Amsterdam
  • Physical Dimensions: 151 x 202 x 8,5 cm
  • Provenance: Acquired. © Peter Cox/Bonnefantenmuseum Maastricht
  • Medium: oil on panel

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