(b. 1508, Amsterdam, d. 1575, Amsterdam)

Christ and the Adulteress

Oil on wood, 122 x 178 cm
Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

The fruit and vegetables presented in Aertsen's paintings are peasant foods, but they are a feast for the eyes. His market scenes are not slices of everyday life, but plausible inventions. Many of the fruit and vegetables depicted in his work have sexual connotations and some of them were eaten as aphrodisiacs.

In the present painting, the artist juxtaposes the biblical narrative with a market scene, encouraging beholders to ponder the relationship between love and lust, between sexual attraction and visual seduction. The foreground of the painting is filled with sexual innuendoes. On the left side, a man shows a woman his strings of onions. Although this may look innocent and mundane, onions were commonly used as aphrodisiacs. Furthermore, according to proverbial folklore, peeling an onion was like peeling off clothes, for it could easily result in tears. On the right, a man grasps a black rooster, a phallic allusion, in one hand, and an egg basket, a vaginal allusion, in the other.