The cheeky art critic column
By Owen Hebbert, Contributor
There has long been a body of thought that views the letter boards of Van Hoogstraten as rather vain self-portraits.
Samuel van Hoogstraten produced a number of paintings like this. Just a bunch of bric-a-brac on a letter board. The apparent mundanity of the objects being portrayed is juxtaposed against the remarkable quality of this near-photorealistic still life. Be warned, frequent use of the word “juxtapose” renders the speaker 120% more likely to be viewed as “a complete poser” and 72% less likely to find a sexual partner. Apparently, it was a personal mission in the life of this artist to create two-dimensional images that could fool the viewer into thinking that the subject is present in three dimensions. This artistic body of technique is usually described by its French handle ‘Trompe l’oeil’ or “Hahaha you should have seen yourself you idiot. You really thought that was real?? I got you so good, hahaha.”
He was so enthusiastic in his pursuit of these deceptions that he would allegedly make little paintings of various household items and place them strategically around his home so that visitors would frequently go to interact with an object only to discover how bloody funny their host was. Examples of this include fish hung on the wall, fruit in the dish rack and a shoe or slipper placed in the corner of a room or under a chair. Van Hoogstraten’s student, Arnold Houbraken, seems to have been very impressed by these petty illusions; though, how Mrs. Van Hoogstraten felt about them is not discussed nearly as much.
There has long been a body of thought that views the letter boards of Van Hoogstraten as rather vain self-portraits. In most of them, you will find all manner of references to what a sophisticated fellow he viewed himself. In this one, you can see a couple of plays that he wrote, a number of references to the fact that he’s a man of letters and endless references to his being well-groomed. Additionally, there is a medallion that had been gifted to him by some Habsburg or another who had been tricked by one of Van Hoogstraten’s trompe l’oeil paintings and thought that this feat was worth a medal.
Apparently, once he was done creating a painting in which a melee of success indicators were tossed together in a manner as nonchalant as it was meticulous, Van Hoogstraten would then send it as a gift to a socially influential people. In case anybody was looking for evidence of time travel, we have here a very clear example of a 21st century Instagram lifestyle influencer operating in the mid-17th century.