BUYTEWECH, Willem Pietersz.
(b. 1591/92, Rotterdam, d. 1625, Rotterdam)
Banquet in the Open Airc. 1615
Oil on canvas, 71 x 94 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin
The Dutch genre painting emerged in Haarlem in the first quarter of the seventeenth century. In Buytewech's Banquet in the Open Air all the typical elements of genre are already manifest, even though the painting clearly reflects a transitional style. Transitional it is, not only in the general setting, which is curiously theatrical, but also in its stiff composition. The presentation of the different motives which together constitute the scene is painfully precise and orthodox.
On a stage-like floor, marked off from a garden by theatrical architecture, are two groups of people, both consisting of richly dressed ladies and flashy men. On the middle of the floor a table is set. One group is still seated next to the table; the other is standing on the right, displaying themselves and also, one has the impression, the table. Within this setting, two types of symbol have been introduced: symbols of Luxury (among others: the golden vases and decanters, the peacock on the table, the not quite contemporary fancy dress) and symbols of Vanity (the musical instruments on the floor).