Carrots in fine art works - part one

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Depictions of Carrots in Fine Art Works - 1

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Paintings have often been used as sources in historical studies of crops.  Carrots have appeared in many great artworks over the years and in fact came to their rescue when plant biologists were trying to identify old species and the only records were in paintings such as the ones on this page. Gabriel Metsu's Vegetable Market at Amsterdam circa 1661-1662

For example, Gabriel Metsu's Vegetable Market at Amsterdam circa 1661-1662 accurately rendered vegetables and shows the vegetable vendors and their goods prominently positioned in the foreground, depicted to reflect a recent Dutch horticultural innovation – including the development of the orange carrot. The market was close to where he lived.

Metsu's painting also shows the new vegetable; this reflects the artist's desire to depict the most recent Dutch horticultural innovations rather than to adhere to outmoded artistic conventions. Metsu's accurate depiction of the Horn carrot is significant because other artists exercised artistic license in treating this and similar subjects. Some painters, for example, depicted vegetables that did not grow at the same time of the year, may never have existed, or are not recognizable. Metsu chose to honour developments in contemporary Dutch horticulture with a realistic depiction rather than to resort to artistic license.

For historical studies of crops, and for historical studies in general, the choice of sources determines the validity of the results. In this respect, the use of illustrations, particularly paintings, remains controversial. It is sometimes possible to determine indirectly whether a plant was depicted after consulting botanical or agricultural references by comparing illustrations in such texts with a particular painting. Preserved specimens, however, must have been used frequently, as is borne out by legacy statements and by the fact that fruits and vegetables characteristic of different seasons are often depicted in the same painting. The similar arrangement of various types of fruits and vegetables across paintings is a further indication of this, as in Joachim Beuckelaer's Woman Selling Vegetables, 1563.

Paintings may serve as important sources if dated by the painters themselves or if they can be reliably dated by other means. This is essential for research in historical studies of crops, as it may affect plant introduction dates. Knowledge of the particular region in which a painter lived and worked or travelled may also provide information about the choice of plants concerned.

They have been used as evidence (erroneously!) that the Dutch "invented" orange rooted carrots for the first time (rather than develop them). 

The Horn carrot was depicted for the first time in Gerrit Dou's painting The Quackoil (or Quacksalver), 1652 - here. The carrots may be seen on the wheelbarrow to the left and in the basket on the ground to the right. His depiction of the Horn carrot, for example, reflected a recent Dutch horticultural innovation.

English writers such as John Parkinson and Samuel Hartlib described the introduction and substantial importation of Dutch vegetables to England. In his "Legacy of Husbandry", 1651, for example, Hartlib commented that cabbages, cauliflowers, turnips, carrots, parsnips, rape, and peas were "few or none in England but what came from Flanders Holland. Source: Art in History:History in Art, studies in 17th century Dutch culture, Issues and Debates edited by David Freedberg and Jan de Vries 1991

Also illustrations of various carrot colours appeared in many illuminated manuscripts, some of the surviving examples are shown here - ancient manuscripts. More carrot art in the Wikigallery here.

There are more pages of Carrots in Fine Art works  -  Page 2, Page 3 & 17th century

Beautiful Van Gogh art here.  The Miscellaneous Art Page includes other works of art. 

There is no documentary evidence that the Dutch "invented" orange carrots to honour their Royal Family, the House of orange. A tale, probably apocryphal, has it that the orange carrot was bred in the Netherlands in the sixteenth century to honour William of Orange. Though the development and stabilisation of the orange carrot root does appear to date from around that period in the Netherlands, it is unlikely that honouring William of Orange had anything to do with it!

As far as The Carrot Museum is concerned the Dutch developed and stabilised the orange carrot, in the 16th century. Subsequently the Dutch people adopted the colour orange and orange carrots as their national vegetable. There is no written evidence that this was also to honour their Royal Family. The point is that the orange carrot came first, Dutch Nationalism second.

In many Dutch paintings of the period the support for the House of Orange is clearly expressed via a piece of cloth, for example you will see a ribbon around the male costume and/or an orange banner. It is also expressed via small bundles of orange (and other colours) carrots prominently displayed in the centre of paintings or more often in an obscure position, depending on the level of support for the House of Orange. 

To this day, many in the Netherlands genuinely like to believe that orange carrots were originally grown specifically as a tribute to the House of Orange. No matter how many times it is repeated and passed on through the generations it still remains pure folklore!!

Also check out the Romantic Carrots of Greg Warren, mis-shapen carrots turned into works of art, and then eaten!

Note: Most of the paintings depicted have a larger, more detailed version which can be accessed by clicking on the appropriate picture. They are obviously larger files so will take a little time to download. Please be patient - they are worth it!

A good example - A Market Scene by Pieter Aertsen,1569 (oil on panel; H 835 mm W 1,695 mm; located in Hallwyl Museum, Sweden) This shows the range of carrots available, in Holland in the mid 1500's - orange, white and purple varieties are clearly shown.

P Aertsen Market Scene 1569 carrots

 Last Supper, Stavronikita Monastery, Refectory 1546 Last Supper, Stavronikita Monastery, Refectory, Fresco by Theophanes the Cretan, Cretan School, 1546.

The Monastery is an Eastern Orthodox monastery at the monastic state of Mount Athos in Greece, dedicated to Saint Nicholas.

It is recorded in the New Testament that the Last Supper was actually a Passover meal as celebrated by all Jewish people for thousands of years - of course Jesus and his disciples were Jewish.

The Passover celebration has changed little over the centuries. Still today, one important part of the evening is tasting "maror" or horseradish.

The maror is one of three items emphasised by Rabbi Gamaliel in the First Century, so it is almost certain that there would have been horseradish at what today is called the Last Supper. It is therefore very likely that what look like carrots in the fresco are actually horseradish.

Below, close up detail.


De Markt Van Rouw -  c1590 (market scene)

No further infomation available

Vegetable and Flower Market by Arnout de Muyser (detail right) Oil on canvas early 1600's.

Naples, Museo  Gallerie Nazionale di Capodimonte

One of the earliest depictions of an orange carrot in works of art - Pieter Aertsen Christ in the Home of Mary and Martha 1553 (oil on panel, Height: 126 cm (49.6 in). Width: 200 cm (78.7 in, location Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam). detail below

This painting is one of the earliest depictions of an orange carrot in a work of art. Agronomist Otto Banga's original paper tracing the appearance of orange-coloured carrots to The Netherlands can be found online here; this more recent paper advances the theory that orange carrots actually originated in southern Europe.

Pieter Aertsen Carrots in Art

Kitchen Still Life Pieter Aertsen ca 1551-53 Oil on panel, H 65.4cm;W 91.4cm Ball State University Museum of Art (United States - Muncie)

The Fat Kitchen An Allegory ca 1550 Pieter Aertsen; Statens Museum for Kunst - Copenhagen (Denmark)

fat kitch p aertsen carrotsFat  Kitchen Allegory

Jesus Christ and the woman taken in adultery/Christ and the Adulteress Pieter Aertsen - ca 1508–75) oil on canvas; Nationalmuseum (Stockholm)

P Aertsen carrots

pieter aertsen carrot

Market Woman with Vegetable Stall 1567; Pieter Aertsen Oil on wood, 11 x 110 cm; Stiftung preußischer Kulturbesitz, Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Market Woman with Vegetable Stall carrots

Marekt Woman with Vegetables - detail of carrots

The Greengrocer by the Dutch painter Pieter Aertsen (1508–1575) (date of painting unknown, ca 1560)

greengrocers shop p aertsen carrots

Kitchen Scene with Christ at Emmaus  Joachim Beuckelaer Dating c. 1560 - 1565 Oil on panel H 109.5cm W169cm. Mauritshuis Gallery The Hague, Holland.

Joachim Beuckelaer Kitchen Scene 1550 carrots


Detail of orange carrots (bottom left)

Joachim Beuckelaer Kitchen Scene 1550 carrots detail

Kitchen Interior with the Parable of the Rich Man and the Poor Lazarus p c van rijck yellow carrots art

Kitchen interior detail

Detail (above) - Anonymous but attributed to Pieter Cornelisz van Rijck 1610 oil on canvas, h 198cm × w 272cm × d 7cm Rijskmuseum


Gerrit Dou "The Mousetrap " circa 1650. (Musee Fabre) oil on panel H47cm W36cm

gerrit dou mousetrap 1650 carrots



gerrit dou moustrap detail

Sebastian Vrancx Produce and flower Market (earth), ca 1630 (detail right)

Kitchen Scene Pieter Cornelisz. van Rijck , 1621 - oil on canvas; 103,2 x 137,5 cm. Frans Hals Museum




De groentewinkel 'De Buyskool', Jan Victors, 1654 (The Greengrocer) oil on canvas, h 91,5cm × b 110cm Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

JAn Victirs The Greengrocer carrots 1654

detasil of jan victors The greengrocer

close up detail of Greengrocer


The Four Elements - Earth
1569-70 Joachim Beuckelaer 
carrot close up here
Still Life
1535-74 Joachim Beuckelaer

Gerrot Dou Young Mother 1658

gerrit dou grocers shop carrots

Gerrit Dou (1613-1675)
Young Mother
Oil on canvas, 1658
Mauritshuis, The Hague
Gerrit Dou The Grocer's Shop 1647  Oil on wood, Musée du Louvre, Paris


Joachim Wtewael 1566-1638 The Kitchen Maid circa 1620-25 Utrecht Centraal Museum (detail below) Joachim Wtewael 1566-1638 The Vegetable seller 1618 Utrecht Centraal Museum (detail below)

The Village Cook, or Woman Pouring Water 1640s Gerrit Dou
Oil on wood, 36 x 27 cm

Location :Musee du Louvre, Paris
Detail of carrots (above)

Christ in the House of Mary and Martha Oil on canvas
Galleria Estense, Modena CAMPI, Vincenzo
(b. ca. 1530, Cremona, d. 1591, Cremona)

Martha is the personification of the busy housekeeper, the active type, in contrast to her contemplative sister, Mary of Bethany. She took the initiative in fetching Christ to their house when their brother Lazarus died. She is the patroness of housewives.
Broker Vrou anonymous ca 1560 now located in Rijksmuseum


Quirin Gerritz van Brekelenkam
c1640s - 1668 Family seated round a kitchen fire
Levi Wells Prentice
(1851-1935) Still Life with Cantaloupe, Tomatoes, and Carrots Oil on canvas 12 x 16 inches

Levi W Prentice - Still Life Cantaloupe, Tomatoes and Carrots

Gerrit Dou (1613-1675)The QuackOil on canvas, 1652
 Oil on canvas, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam

(detail of carrots on left)

Pieter Aertsen,
Christ and the Adulteress
1559 Oil on wood, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt
Joachim Beuckelaer,
Market Woman with Fruit, Vegetables and Poultry 1564 Oil on oak, 118 x 170,5 cm Staatliche Museen, Kassel

Christ and Adulteress Aertsen orange carrots

Market woman with fruit and vegetables Beuckelaer 1564

François Boucher 1703-70 -
Boy Holding a Carrot 1738
pastel on buff laid paper,308 x 243 mm Art Institute Chicago

Joachim Beuckelaer,
Vegetable Seller Oil on wood, Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp

Francois Boucher Boy Holding Carrot

Joachim Beuckler,
Woman Selling Vegetables Oil on canvas, Rockox House, Antwerp
Jan van Kessel,
Still-life with Vegetables Oil on canvas Civic Museum, Prato

Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez,
Peasants at the Table (El Almuerzo) c. 1620 Oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
Frans Snyders,
Vegetable Still-Life c. 1600 Oil on canvas, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe

16th century Kitchen 16th Century Kitchen with Cook and Maid – Artist Unknown

Detail below

16th c carrots detail

There are more pages of Carrots in Fine Art works  -  Page 2, Page 3 & 17th century

The Miscellaneous Art Page includes other works of art.  Van Gogh

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