Saturday in the Museum with Lucas

Image: Lucas van Valckenborch, Meat and Fish Market (Winter), (1595)

This year for our Saturday art posts we are focusing on food sources; artists who capture food before it is the subject of a composed still life or the center of a feast. Today’s paining is from Flemish painter Lucas van Valckenborch, also known as The Elder.

The piece is in the collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. According to the Museum description: “In his last years, while living in Frankfurt, he painted a number of market scenes tied distinctively to the four seasons, of which the Museum’s painting is a fine example. Such market imagery can be traced back to the previous generation of painters from the Antwerp school. This work was likely part of a series, although it cannot be connected directly with any of three other surviving sets, and may be the only existing painting from a fourth series, since lost, dedicated to seasons.”

Apropos of the current moment, the painting also depicts an innovation to ward off disease: “The painting shows a vibrant market selling animal flesh which is a designated area away from the civil area depicted in the background. After the Black Death, urban planners came to consciousness of public health and cleanliness of the city. A new type of architecture was introduced as the market for meat and fish trades. The separation of animal-flesh-trading from other civil activities helped to keep the city clean of dead animal bodies, the blood and filth resulted from meat production, and also maintained fresh air by keeping the odour of animal slaughtering away.”

Van Valckenborch was born in Leuven/Louvain into a large family of painters. He fled the Netherlands following the Spanish occupation, finding refuge and work in Germany. He did return, however, to be a court painter to the Archduke Matthias von Habsburg, governor of the Spanish Provinces. He eventually moved back to Germany, settling in Frankfurt a few years before this painting was done. He died there in 1597.

Van Valckenborch’s style is close to that of Pieter Bruegel who was ten years his senior. His most important works were landscapes although he also made significant contributions to the genre of portraiture. His landscapes combine a use of traditional Flemish compositions with sweeping panoramas presented from a high viewpoint, but they are based to a greater degree than those of his predecessors on a direct observation of nature and his landscapes include depictions of real places such as Liège, Burschied, Antwerp and Vienna.”


We also use these art posts to draw your attention to real places: the 300+ recommended restaurants in our dining guide for Washington, D.C. You can sort by cuisine, neighborhood, and current operating status (dine-in and/or take-out, etc.) in either LIST or MAP format.  Though operating status is changing day-to-day, so be sure to double-check. And don’t forget to bring proof of vaccination – many places (including many of the best ones) still require it.

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