From then on, the representation of flowers, dead animals or objects became more symbolic as each thing had a religious meaning according to the Bible. For example, still-lifes with raisins, apples or pears represented the blood of Christ, his love for the Church or the softnes of his transformation into Man while a lobster represented his resurrection.
Balthasar van der Ast
There were also emblems and hidden religious and political symbols in these paintings. Moreover, there was a religious fracture between Catholics and Protestants, between the South and the North which induced many painters to become more allusive in their works. In addition, these paintings contained hidden proverbs or were destined to certain circles.
Fish still-lives were mainly produced in the Hague which had an important market, breakfast still-lives were a speciality in Haarlem while flowers were more in demand in Utrecht. Nevertheless, these paintings also reflected a change in mentality and thinking.
Deep economic changes occurred at the end of the 16th Century in Holland and the Flanders which were under the rule of the Habsburg dynasty. With the development of overseas trade, traditional agriculture receded while the development of markets became spectacular.
Dutch and Flemish people became more accustomed to buying fruits and other foods and because of the new opulence, painters had a new approach towards their fetichism. Religious symbols thus became less important while wealth became the target of hidden criticisms.
In Holland notably, the trend was to oppose the traders and the peasants, the former representing economic prosperity and the latter the old world. Still, religious meanings kept being underlined such as in the representation of meat which could indicate a threat to faith, weak flesh or the ritual sacrifice of an animal.
Herman van der Myn
Kitchen scenes had also several meanings relating to the Last Supper, wealth, waste or eroticism depending on the representation of objects, food and servants.
The new opulence multiplied all kinds of desires which were also represented in such paintings. They sometime reflected avidity, concupiscence, pleasure, love, luxury, vice, vanity, laziness, sight, touch, smell, hearing and so on.
Attributed to Gerrit Willemsz. Horst