Flemish painter Pieter Aertsen was one of the first artists to paint "inverted still lifes," works in which the still-life elements are placed prominently in the foreground, while the narrative elements are relegated to the background.
The Butcher´s Stall is Aertsen´s masterpiece in this genre. A feast for the mind as well as the eyes, this remarkably executed painting abounds with rich symbolism. The juxtaposition of the precisely rendered meats and other foods with the Holy Family in the background symbolically links food for the body with the spiritual "bread of life"- food for the soul, represented by the Christ child and the bread, offered by Mary to the poor family.
In presenting a visual metaphor that encourages the viewer to consider his spiritual life, this work also anticipates the symbolic religious meanings present in seventeenth-century Dutch vanitas still lifes.
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