(b. 1629, Leiden, d. 1667, Amsterdam)
Vegetable Market in Amsterdam1661-62
Oil on canvas, 97 x 81,3 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Horticulture was as potent a source of pride and livelihood in the Dutch Republic as livestock. The vegetable market painted by Gabriel Metsu displays an impressive variety of cabbages and root vegetables against a backdrop of the Prinsengracht, one of Amsterdam's finest canals. Metsu gave pride of place to the Horn carrot (the orange root in the cane basket) and the cauliflower, both of them expensive vegetables that Dutch growers had recently developed; they are contrasted with turnips and other staples of Dutch cooking. The canal calls attention to an enabling factor of Amsterdam's economy: its ready access to Holland's network of waterways.
In setting and motifs, the painting is about Amsterdam's flourishing vegetal and economic cultures, both the subject of numerous laudatory descriptions. While such specific market pictures had some general precedents, their combination of actual sites with the best of locally grown produce constitutes their novelty, and even their seventeenth-century Dutchness.