BRAY, Joseph de
(b. 1628/34, Haarlem, d. 1664, Haarlem)

Still-Life in Praise of the Pickled Herring

Oil on panel, 67 x 49 cm
Suermondt-Ludwig Museum, Aachen

In a still-life from 1656 by Joseph de Bray (now in Dresden) a poem by the Remonstrant preacher and poet Jacob Westerbaen: 'In praise of the Pickled Herring' is prominently featured on a marble slab. The present painting, executed by the same artist in the following year, features the first lines of another poem by Westerbaen, "Cupid's removal" below the Pickled Herring verses. In this poem the author describes how Cupid disturbs a drunken brawl of the gods, whereupon they send him into exile. In Westerbaen's publication the two poems are not combined on one page, as de Bray suggests in his painting, but by combining them, the painter clearly and specifically emphasizes the herring's qualities as an aphrodisiac.