Market Scene with Christ and the Adulteress
Oil on wood
Inv. No. 1378
122 × 177 cm
Aertsen’s market piece dates from the beginnings of Netherlandish still-life painting. The New Testament story of Christ and the adulteress (John 8:3-11) is engulfed by the rich abundance of wares. The Biblical scene, however, is the key to understanding the work’s message, which warns of the dangers of sensual pleasures. This aspect is emphasised by the depiction of various birds among the market goods, since even in the sixteenth century the verb “vögeln” (from “Vogel” – bird) was used to describe the act of sexual intercourse, as it still does today in German and Dutch alike. Yet the marketwomen’s direct gazes at the viewer also signalled their brazenness to the painter’s contemporaries.