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The Oyster Meal

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Jordan Matts

on 22 August 2013

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Transcript of The Oyster Meal

Fur The cloak with the fur lining that the woman is wearing an ermine trimmed red velvet cloak. This type of cloak was very popular in fashion at this time in the 17th century. Ermine was used in Italy and England for trimming royal or ceremonial garment. The fur of ermine comes from the frigid parts of Eurasia. Most likely the fur was hunted in the Tundra of Siberia. The trade occurred within the Russian fur trade. They would have traded for metals, textiles, firearms, lead, sulphur, and tin. Once this fur was exchanged it would have been brought in to Delft and traded for beer, pottery, or other textiles local to the Delft production. This fur from Siberia was also traded with Asia; therefor the Dutch East India Company could have easily accessed this fur as well.

Another option on how this fur could have been obtained would be through the Americas using the Hudson River trade route. The fur would have been then taken through the three major river systems to the Dutch trading posts. These furs were traded for goods like knives, axes, needles, glass wear, kettles, and wool. All of these were goods that the Indians who hunted the fur needed. The Hudson Bay Company established the Charter of Governor and the Company of Adventures of England Trading into the Hudson Bay. However Ermines themselves were found in Northern Canada or Russia, so the furs would have come from one of those two. Silk Silk came from China; the silk was made by the thread of silk worms that live on mulberry trees. The Chinese had secret books called treatises that held the secrets of weaving, chemical altercations, and the process of dying. Locations of silk production in China were: the Yangzi River, the delta of the Pear River, and the Sichuan basin. By the 15th century France and Italy were also leading manufacturers of this fine cloth. In the 17th century, a man called Milanos came up with a loom capable of making figured silk cloth. This gave the French company Lyon Fabrics to compete with the Italian silk industry.
French silk weavers fled to England due to the persecution from the Church. In England, they set up their own industry in the 1620s. Delft already had growing trade interactions with China. Delft even had porcelain produced by China called Delft Blue. This silk could have easily come into the river ports along with the porcelain, or it could have come from Italy or France due to their growing prominence in the silk industry. If the silk came from the regions in Asia, it would have been brought to Delft through the Dutch East India Trading Company.
This regional trade network touched base in the Indies after being in India where silk was an exporting product. The trade route would connect at Batavia, which is a city in the Indies. Then from Batavia there was a return route that would connect and return the silk to Amsterdam. From Amsterdam the silk would be taken to the ports in Delft. Jug A Dutch Delft White Glazed Mounted Silver Jug is placed in this painting. Dutch potters used a specific kind of clay called mart. This clay is rich in calcium compounds. However the pottery is usually made from a combination of three clays: one is local to Delft, one is from Tournai, and the final one from Rhineland. Originally, all parts of jug were covered in a white tin glaze, just as the one in the painting is. Later in time only the parts that were decorated with painted designs were covered in the glaze. The tin glaze was made out of tin oxide made with cobalt oxide, magnesium oxide, iron oxide, and antimony oxide that was applied to an unfired surface.
Many types of pottery during this time were modeled after Chinese porcelain that would have been imported through the Dutch East India Trading Company. To make this kind of pottery required different types of buildings to do different kinds of jobs. There were attics for dying, warehouses, sheds for firewood, hay attics, and a sale room where the master lived. There were also different kinds of specialists. The ear mixers (aarcletrappers) who needed the earth paste with their feet and removed all of the lumps. The potters (draaies) who were divided into 3 classes: 1. Large potters. 2. Round potters. 3. The flat potters. All three of these classes did sculpting on the wheel. The shapers made more refined shapes. The givers dunked the pots into the tin glaze and set them out to dry. Some pots (not including the one in the painting) were delicately painted. The earth washeries were where the formula of the clay was made. The floor workers (vloerwerkers) finished items with a tin glaze. These products were then sold to customers in the Dutch Republic and also went worldwide on freight ships Oysters Oysters came from France, and to this day France remains the leader in the oyster industry. However, China also accounted for eighty-percent of the global oyster harvest. The age of oysters made them a delicacy. Christianity made them respectable. Oysters have sexless reproduction, meaning that they are asexual. This idea of chastity went well the abstinence of the church. In Dutch paintings of the 17th century, oysters meant exactly the opposite of purity. They accompanied brothels and seduction, and were also apparently used as metaphors for female sex organs. Oysters could have been traded with their fellow Europeans France and Britain where oysters were present within noble courts. Or they would have been traded through the Dutch East India Trading Company with the interactions with Asia where China was a major producer.
Oysters live in beds of very shallow water. To harvest them, you can do it by hand or with small rakes. In deeper water, oyster tongs are used to reach the beds. They were also a good food source of this time because they are 23% carbohydrates, 33% fatty acid, and 44% protein. This means that oysters were a balanced food with vitamins of zinc, selenium, vitamin D, iron, magnesium, and phosphorous. The etymology of the word oyster comes from the French word oistre. And fun fact: the phrase “the world is my oyster” comes from Shakespeare’s The Marry Wives of Windsor in the 1920s by the phrase “Why then the worlds mine oyster”. Silver Silver is mostly mined as a co-product of copper, lead, zinc, etc. The environment that is needed to create silver is commonly in limestone where the warm fluid fills the crevices needed to make the rich lead-zinc-silver deposits. The Spanish colonies had their major source of wealth from silver. The silver from the Spanish colonies was then exported to Europe. Mining centers in that region included Zacatecas, Tarceu, and Cuanguindo. The only places that were allowed to trade with Spain were Vera Cruz, Cargogenn, and Porto Bella. Later problems arose in the mining industry. Spain was only mining silver because of mercury shortages. Another problem that arose was that the population of native people was dropping so production of the silver decreased as a result. That caused a drop in the price of silver between 1640 and 1680.
The silver could have been obtained through being imported into the Netherlands from being shipped from Bilbao and other Spanish Atlantic ports. In the 1660s nearly 300,000 passengers travelled on the Amsterdam route which carried goods such as silver. The route went between Harlem and Leiden, and then stopped in Leiden. From there, it would join destinations of Hague and Delft. Once Delft had received the silver, it would then be used to make platters and other silverware like the one portrayed in the painting. Or they may have used silver for the manufacturing of silver jewelry. by Franz Van Mieris The Oyster Meal Works Cited Silk:
"Silk Production in the Seventeenth Century." Nation Park Service. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan 2013.
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"Oyster." Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, n.d. Web. 30 Jan 2013. The Painting Itself The Oyster Meal was painted in 1661 by Frans Van Mieris. This painting is a Dutch painting, and can be interpreted in two different ways. One interpretation is that the painting was meant to be erotic, using oysters as sexual symbols. A second interpretation is a religious comparison, with the shell representing Mary who gave birth to the "pearl of great price", referring to Jesus as the pearl.
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