Title   Slabbetje, soet vers en goet (Search for the image)
Translated title Herrings,* Sweet, Fresh, And Good
Intro Text by dr D. Barnes, accompanying Bramer’s drawing of a fishwive (`visvrouw’)

Code of occupational group 45220
Description In a rural village lane, an altercation has taken place between two fishwives. The younger curly-haired woman, with a kerchief loosely knotted around her neck, is walking away from an older woman sprawled on the ground. The young woman holds large, flat, wicker baskets of fish under each arm, balancing the baskets on her hips. She has turned her head to the right to look at, and speak with, the older woman. The woman on the ground had a yoke around her neck which has slipped askew behind her back. She props herself up with her left arm and elbow. Her baskets are on the ground near her knees. She is attempting to push herself up off the ground with her right arm, which is bent at the elbow.

Fishwives, and other market women, were known to be vigorous defenders of what they took to be their rights and prerogatives. Some were exceedingly sharp-tongued. Fights between them, while not common, were not unusual. Competition between them was often keen as they tried tosell fish to customers. A fishwife might denigrate her competitor's wares while extolling the freshness and succulence of her own fish.

Bramer's drawing is intriguing; it certainly has vivacity, and at least plausible veracity. A scolding fishwife was the theme of a drawing by Nicolaes Maes, (Metropolitan Museum of Art) but Maes' fishwife, who tugs the apron of a woman with a shopping can, directs her anger at her customers. The fishwife cajoling a reluctant customer was employed in Emanuel de Witte's 1672 "Fishmarket" (Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen).

Source Donna R. Barnes, Ed D, Street scenes, Leonard Bramer's drawings of seventeenth-century daily life (Hofstra Museum exhibition 1991). Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York.

Click here for the introductory essay on Bramer's drawings.

Notes Wichmann translates "slabbetje" as herring. The word actually means "bib" or "little cloth", which suggests that it was a local dialect variant or term of endearment for some fish, perhaps a herring.


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