Christian Berentz (Hamburg 1658 - Rome 1722)
The Elegant Snack
Oil on canvas
52 x 67.5 cm
Berentz was a German painter who spent most of his lifetime in Rome. When he painted An Elegant Snack, still life had already been raised to the dignity of an independent pictorial genre for a century. This painting takes the form of a contrast between the frugality of the meal and the refinement of the objects, in an elegant setting and amid the apparent disorder of some of the details: the raised corner of the tablecloth uncovers the wood beneath and reveals the half-open drawer, the orange cut in half and the loaf of bread which seems to be precariously balanced. The elegant goblets, silver cutlery and gold snuffbox suggest the social status of the people for whom the food is served. The lower right-hand corner of the table points towards the observer and the non-frontality of the scene heightens the impression that this is an improvised meal.
Still life, especially from the seventeenth-century on, in its constructed realism, was not exempt from symbolic meanings connected with the frailty of matter and the transience of time. The painting is initialed and dated on the inner left-hand corner of the tablecloth (C.B. 1717).