COUWENBERGH, Christiaen van
(b. 1604, Delft, d. 1667, Cologne)

Woman with a Basket of Fruit

Oil on canvas, 107,5 x 93 cm
Gemäldesammlung der Universität, Göttingen

A ripe young woman stands in a doorway holding a tapestry aside with the back if her hand. She carries a basket overflowing with fruit, quite as her bodice seems about to spill its abundant contents. Although the woman presumably is entering the room in which the viewer finds himself (that he is male need not be debated), it also seems that she has paused in the doorway, inviting him to withdraw to a private space.

The painting has also be said to represent Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit. While classical and even biblical references often served as pretexts for including sexy pictures in the seventeenth century collections, there are few works for which such a claim is less convincing. Van Couwenbergh's canvas is an exceptionally straightforward version of a type of painting that first flourished in Utrecht during the 1620s and became popular in court circles at The Hague between about 1635 and 1650. Gerard van Honthorst and Paulus Moreelse often painted courtesans dressed as shepherdess, a bird in the hand or an offer of fruit may recall Venus, Eve, Pomona, or some other ancient prototype, but the costumes, with tantalizingly low necklines, and the blond tresses framing Dutch faces must have made contemporary viewers feel right at home.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.