CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Setting the Table

17 November 2023 - 1 November 2024

Setting the Table

Exhibition: 17 November 2023 - 1 November 2024

Please note that the closing date for this exhibition is provisional and see the Rijksmuseum website for the latest information.

In Setting the Table, eight paintings from the Rijksmuseum collection trace Dutch dining culture in the seventeenth century. These still lifes and everyday scenes by artists such as Gabriël Metsu, Abraham Mignon and Cornelis Dusart reveal what people were eating, from whom they bought their food, and from where that food came.


The rapid growth in trade in the seventeenth century prompted major shifts in Dutch dining culture: wealthy citizens started using Chinese porcelain objects as centrepieces on lavishly set tables, and supplementing local produce with foodstuffs from around the world. We can clearly trace these developments in still lifes. The 1651 painting Still Life with Roemer, Flute Glass, Earthenware Jug and Pipes by Jan Jansz van de Velde III, for example, also features tobacco and salt brought to the Netherlands by the Dutch West India Company, or WIC. And Still Life with Fruit by Pieter Gallis (1673) presents a range of fruits from China and Persia.

Bread, cheese and ham

Ordinary families had to make do with a rather less wide-ranging menu, with breakfast comprising mainly bread, cheese and ham, as we can see in Man and Woman at a Meal, by Gabriël Metsu (1650-60). In the same painting we see the woman filling a flute glass with beer – people rarely drank plain water in this period, but consumed beer throughout the day.


It is striking that there are artichokes alongside the carrots and cabbages depicted in Husbandman at a Cottage Door with a Seated Woman and Child by David Teniers II (ca. 1650-55). Artichokes were new to the Netherlands in this period. They originally grew in the Mediterranean region, and were introduced to northern Europe in the sixteenth century.

Fish stall

The 1683 painting Fish Market by Cornelis Dusart shows a fish stall with a woman behind it preparing fish for sale. It was quite common in this time for middle-class women to sell food and other items to make a living. Women were even in the majority in the case of the fish trade, where they practiced a variety of occupations – in sales and delivery roles, and as suppliers of fish baskets.

The Rijksmuseum at Schiphol

In 2002, the Rijksmuseum became the first art museum to open a branch at an airport. Travelers are able to visit the museum free of charge, 24 hours a day. Rijksmuseum Schiphol is situated between Lounge 2 and Lounge 3 after passing through security at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.