Aertsen’s Market Scene (c.1560-65)

Pieter Aertsen's Market Scene is, on the esoteric level, immediately recognizable as a woman-artist on the left behind her "painting" of a man. They are in different realities. Here's how.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Pieter Aertsen, Market Scene (c.1560-65) Oil on panel. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

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The woman looks out in a pose not unlike her counterpart in Aertsen's Cook in front of a Stove (right). There, as explained before, she is an artist looking into a mirror (where we are) while painting a "self-portrait" in front of her but out of view.1 Both their hands stretch towards the frame's border. That our woman reaches for the top, rather than a lateral edge, does not negate the implication.  

Captions for image(s) above:

L: Detail of Aertsen's Market Scene (c.1560-65)
R: Detail of Aertsen's Cook in front of a Stove (1559)

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The two faces are also similar because if the woman "paints", she "paints herself".2 This is why she holds dead chickens while the man cradles live ones. Good painters in art's enduring topos depict nature as if alive while death in art is associated with a finished painting as the studio term executed suggests. This, in turn, reveals why the man is so vast. She is an artist who has completed her "painting"; he and his chickens are that "painting", a large one.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Pieter Aertsen, Market Scene (c.1560-65) 

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Aertsen did not sign his composition with a signature but in a way no writer has noted. Indeed he "signed" it twice. The design of the basket which the man holds is formed from repetitive A-shapes (for Aertsen) while the handle is shaped like a P (for Pieter). See diagram below.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Detail and diagram of Aertsen's Market Scene (c.1560-65)

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He also placed them in twigs under the cage, one on either side (see enlargements below).3 This seems to suggest that the cage is yet another "painting" within the woman's of the man. In other words, she has "painted" him holding his own "painting", the bird cage with live chickens. There is, as always, more to Aertsen's composition. Here, though, I just hope to have shown that the discovery of these initials places the scene at odds with conventional understanding yet in a very similar way to works by hundreds of other major artists.

(See how Aertsen twisted his initials into objects in other paintings.) 
 

Captions for image(s) above:

Detail and diagram of Aertsen's Market Scene with further details below

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Notes:

1. For an explanation of the concept, see "Over the Shoulder Poses" (2010) and "Pointing at the Edge" (2012).

2. See the overview of "Every Painter Paints Himself" (2010)

3. More examples of artists using their initials in a similar way can be found under the theme "Letters in Art"

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 28 Aug 2015. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.