FLORIS GERRITSZ. VAN SCHOOTEN (Haarlem active c. 1605 – 1656)
Still Life of Fruit on a Table Draped with a Dark Cloth: Plums, Apples, Bunches of Black and White Grapes and Pears
signed with monogram in the middle right (on a leaf above the pears): F V S
oil on panel
24 x 40 inches (52 x 83 cm.)
Donald Antiques and Decorations, London, as Dutch School, sold October, 1951, to
Private Collection, London, and thus by descent to
Private Collection, New York, until 2013
This lush still life of fruit is an excellent example of a lesser-known aspect of the oeuvre of the Haarlem still-life painter, Floris van Schooten, who was a contemporary and fellow townsman of Floris van Dijck (c.1575-1651), Pieter Claesz. (1597-1660) and Roelof Koets (1592/93-1654/55).
The first known record of Floris van Schooten is his registry in the civic guard of Haarlem in 1606. Consequently, he must have been at least 18 years old at the time and thus was born in 1588 at the latest. Unfortunately, there is no record of the place or date of his birth. Van Schooten married the daughter of a rich brewer in Haarlem in December of 1612, by which time he had probably joined the painters’ guild. He lived and worked in Haarlem until his death in November of 1656.
Van Schooten painted still lifes of various types but also produced a few paintings of biblical subjects. It is unfortunately not possible to establish a firm chronology for his work as he dated only a small portion of his many still lifes, and his style and handling were rather consistent. Floris van Schooten’s earliest works demonstrate substantial influence from the Haarlem still-life painters Floris van Dijck and Nicolaes Gillis (active c.1612–1632 or later). His earliest known dated still life, from 1617, is particularly reminiscent of van Dijck’s impressive displays of victuals and costly objects. During the 1620s, the work of Pieter Claesz., with whom he collaborated on at least one occasion, must have been a source of inspiration for him. Notwithstanding the fact that Floris van Schooten regularly picked up ideas from the work of artists in his Haarlem circle, his still lifes have a strongly individual character and are usually immediately recognizable as his work.
Although accurate dating of van Schooten’s still life is not possible, there can be little doubt that the artist painted this still life of fruit later in his career, probably around the mid-1640s. It is particularly close in style and content to a larger still life of fruit and vegetables that he dated in 1644. While in that painting some red fruit add an additional warm accent, and while the bunches of grapes, also with the vine leaves hovering over them, are placed in a shallow basket, it contains very similar clusters of apples and of plums. Van Schooten’s larger 1644 still life has firm roots in his earlier, large kitchen displays of food and utensils. This still life of fruit has a more intimate character, also in comparison with most of van Schooten’s still lifes of fruit, in which he included a variety of containers, such as porcelain or earthenware dishes and plates and wicker baskets. Relatively few examples, often smaller than the present piece, feature fruit exclusively. Unlike many seventeenth-century still lifes of fruit and of flowers, this painting does not show fruit from different seasons: all of these are autumn products.
Still lifes of fruit must have been popular with the Haarlem public. Roelof Koets, for instance, was rather prolific in this area, and other Haarlem artists, such as Hans Bollongier (c.1600-1672/75) and Jan Matham (1600/01-1648) also painted pure fruit still lifes, be it on a smaller scale. Like those colleagues, van Schooten depicted a common choice of fruit, apples, pears, plums and even grapes were easily available, be it not always cheap, particularly the latter.
While seventeenth-century still life paintings often have some deeper iconographic content, a piece like this should not be viewed with that in mind. Most of all, it was painted for the pleasure of the viewer. It would have struck a contemporary viewer particularly as an attractive illusion of a conceived reality, and most of all, also out of season, it would have encouraged thoughts of enjoying tasty, ripe fruit. All of this, more than three centuries and a half after it was painted, it still does.
Fred G. Meijer
Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie,
 I. van Thiel- Stroman in N. Köhler (ed.), Painting in Haarlem 1500-1850. The collection of the Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem/Ghent 2006, p. 301. Van Thiel incorrectly quotes a publication by L.J. Bol in reference to a (non-existing) work from 1605.
 In 1966, Poul Gammelbo published an oeuvre catalogue of van Schooten’s work in the Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, counting 122 paintings. Since then, a fair number of works unknown to Gammelbo have turned up, extending the known oeuvre to well above 150 paintings. Dated works are known from 1617 to 1647.
 See F.G. Meijer, ‘Twee is niet altijd meer dan één / Two is not always more than one’, RKD Bulletin 1997-2, pp. 16-20. Brunner (2004) incorrectly argued that the painting was (it no longer exists as such) entirely by Claesz.
 Oil on canvas, 101 x 143,5 cm, signed with monogram and dated 1644, see P.Sutton, The Hohenbuchau Collection, Vienna 2011, cat. no. 75, colour ill. (pp. 344-347).