Title   Mostert (Search for the image)
Translated title Mustard
Intro Text by dr D. Barnes, accompanying Bramer’s drawing of a mustard seller (`mosterdverkoopster’)

Code of occupational group 45220
Description A stout woman, wearing an old-fashioned, broad straw hat, placed her wicker basket containing a pot of mustard on a bench outside the door of a house. She scooped out a large dollop of mustard with a wooden ladle and is about to spoon it into a small bowl held towards her by the customer, a woman standing in the doorway behind the closed bottom half of the door. There is a tall circular-shaped building in the background, with three concentrically-diminishing stories of windows.

Mustard seed was ground to a powder with mortars and pestles. The powder was then mixed with vinegar, water, verjuice, wine, or beer, and occasionally cooking oil, to form a condiment paste. Honey or herbs could be added for additional nuance. Mustard paste was used to flavor cooked meats and sausages. Mustard seed was occasionally added to stews and to the water in which fish was poached or shrimp, crabs, and mussels steamed.

While poorer families might have stored and served prepared mustard in a small earthenware crock and served it with a small wooden spoon, wealthy households had silver mustard pots that could be brought to the table, along with their specially-fashioned silver mustard spoons. Just such a mustard pot can be seen in Gerret Willemsz. Heda's "Still Life with Ham" (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

There are no other representations of mustard-sellers in 17th-century Dutch art, although a mustard man is seen in Brebiette's street cries of Paris, (1640- 41). The building here in the background is reminiscent of Italian architecture, and may well have been inspired by Bramer's years spent living in Rome and travelling in Italy. (Round or domed buildings were not found often in the Netherlands during the 1600's, the most notable exception being the domed Lutheran Church in Amsterdam.) This same Italianate building was incorporated by Bramer in three drawings illustrating the life of Alexander the Great.

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.



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