Monogrammist VS.Z.

(Haarlem XVII Century)

Still Life with a Römer, a pice of bread, a lemon and peaches

We are grateful to Dr. Fred Meijer for confirming the attribution of this painting

Oil on panel
52 X 40 cm ( 20 15⁄32 X 15 3⁄4 inches )

-  Galerie Julia Kraus, Paris, 1976 
- Kunsthandel K. & V. Waterman, Amsterdam, 1979
- Private collection, Kiel, then by descent,
- Private collection, Hambourg.

In the present state of research, the monogrammer V.S-Z remains anonymous. We know of a dozen still lifes, forming a homogeneous corpus and monogrammed by the artist. Probably from Haarlem, our artist is stylistically related to the works of the 1650s by Willem Claesz Heda (c. 1596-1680) and Floris van Schooten (1605-1656).
Our composition is a monochrome banketje, a very bare still life dominated by dark tones, with the exception of a few elements: glass, fruit and bread. In a stone niche, in front of a branch of foliage, a large Römer sits enthroned in the centre of the painting, its transparent walls flooded with light from the window. At its foot, a piece of bread, three peaches and a lemon on a silver plate are the only elements in the composition. There's a very fine work on the materials, between transparency and opacity. The porous strip of lemon, peeled without interruption, wraps around like a garland. The association of this citrus fruit with the glass of wine, into which the juice of the lemon is supposed to be added, because of their humoral-pathological medical complexion, has been staged as a symbolic reminder of temperance.
Everything in this painting is symbolic, essentially Christ-like, with the wine, the bread and the red peaches. The wine and the bread for the Eucharist, and the peach as a symbol of the Trinity (it is made up of three parts, the flesh, the stone and the almond enclosed in the stone) and the lemon as a symbol of salvation, because it is considered a powerful remedy against poisons.
But it's also philosophical: it's a vanitas, reminding us of the passing of time, that we are mortal. Like old bread that hardens, peaches that eventually stain. Even stone cannot withstand the test of time, as shown by the blows on the edge of the entablature and the niche. Finally, the peeled lemon reveals the carnal envelope that encloses man's soul.