In Gratitude for Pronk

Given we are entering the season of thanks, I was suddenly struck by a sense of gratitude for the bounty I enjoy and frequently take for granted. I was raised in poverty, food was not always available, with such a background my weekly trek to the local Whole Foods can  at times feel overwhelming. I was made aware of this fact last Saturday, the usually busy market was even more alive with teeming shoppers eager to make this Thanksgiving more memorable than any other. The grocers responded with even more alluring displays of produce, most particularly lovely fragrant bouquets of celery, such a modest vegetable possessing such verdant beauty. These supremely suburban displays of abundance reminded me of another time and place in which ostentatious displays of luxury were enjoyed with unreserved relish- the  17th century pronk still life paintings of Northern Europe, in particular the lavish work of Jan de Heem.

With that in mind, the following images are my Thanksgiving greetings, please remember to click upon the image, the attention to detail is beguiling..

Jan Davidsz. de Heem

Dutch, 1606-1883/84

Still Life with Parrots 

late 1640’s

Ringling Museum of Art

Jan de Heem

Still life with ham, lobster and fruit

c. 1653

Museum Bolijman Van Beuninjen

Even this vegetarian finds this traif image alluring.

Of course Jan de Heem wasn’t the only practitioner of the pronk genre; other gifted artists were able to capture the lavish displays of seductive imported goods for our voyeuristic delight.

Jan Pauwell Gillemans the Elder

Still life with Fruit, a Parrot and Polecat Ferrets

mid 17th cent.

 Victoria and Albert Museum

Of course the French were adept at depicting luxury, and although the following image isn’t necessarily pronk, it is delightfully overwrought.

Alexandre François Desportes

French, 1661-1743

Still life with Silver

 Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the French fashion, this marvelous image of Anthony and Cleopatra enjoying a luxurious spread, is a visual delight. I am particularly tickled by the absence of food, the love of ostentatious display does not allow for anything as banal as mere grub, gold suffices.

Claude Vignon

French 1593-1670

The Banquet of Anthony and Cleopatra

 Ringling Museum of Art

I will close with a frankly sentimental and boldly Christian image, that of Jan de Heem’s meditation upon the blessed Eucharist. It really is quite stunning.

Eucharist in Fruit Wreath

c. 1648

Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

With that, I wish a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving day.

Until next time,

Babylon Baroque


3 Responses to “In Gratitude for Pronk”

  1. Wonderful selection of paintings and your comparision to suburban displays at high end markets is inspired! I had never heard the term “pronk” before. What is its literal translation?

    Of course, these images while simultaneously depicting wealth, abundance and nascent capitalism, also functioned as vanitas reminding the viewer that all these earthly goodies eventually and always turn to dust just like you dear spectator.

    Great post! Really enjoyed it! I have to take a more extensive look at your decorative painting. It looks fab!

    • babylonbaroque Says:

      Good to hear from you! My understanding of pronk is that it translates as “showy” or “ostentatious” , two of my favorite attributes! I get the impression , that pronk isn’t admired as the “brown”genre of Dutch still life-shriveled dead fish and stale crusty bread, all sepia and ochre, I personally cannot bear that sort of thing. I have harlot’s taste, pronksuits me well.But yes, there is an element of vanitasamidst the show, we are all well aware of how elusive wealth and power or at least its representation can be.
      Take care, and have a happy Thanksgiving,

  2. And “pronking” is what gazelles do….which seems appropriate for the happy, bouncing feelings of joy you spread. xxoo E

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