THE PROPERTY OF A LADY
Ravesteyn frequently re-used several of the objects used in these still lifes, and this canvas is one of two closely related versions of this composition that he painted. The second, of similar size, signed and dated 1671, is in the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.1 This differs in the arrangement of the scattered walnuts on the table top, and in the handle of the jug, which is turned further towards the viewer. In both canvases a packet of tobacco is prominent, and their inscriptions identify them as the ware of Gerrit Marschal, who was a taback vercooper (tobacco seller) in Ravesteyn's home town of Dordrecht. The white clay pipe is similarly common to both works, and was made in Gouda, and thence exported throughout Europe. Taken together these elements suggest that Ravesteyn's subject was a distillation of the simple pleasures of smoking tobacco and drinking wine, by 1670 a ubiquitous pastime throughout the Netherlands. Nevertheless, a gentle warning is perhaps intended by the walnuts, which may reflect the artist's familiarity with a print in Joris Hoefnagel's Archetypa (1592) in which they appear with a humorous Latin epigram: 'Alea parva Nuces, et non damnosa videtur; Saepe tamen pueris abstulit illa nates' (gambling with nuts [often used as dice] is thought to be a harmless game, but it has also raised welts [like the bumps on the walnuts]).
1 Oil on canvas, 66 x 50 cm.; see A. Chong et al., Still-life paintings from the Netherlands 1550–1720, exh. cat., Zwolle 1999, pp. 267–68, cat. no. 71, reproduced in colour p. 269.
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