Still-Life of XVII Century.
Still-Lives were created by protestants as substitutes for forbidden religious images. After Luther had translated the Bible in the XVI century, the congregation started to refer to the content of this book, rather than worshipping its existence. Among one of the commandments they discovered was 'Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image'. After religion, a subject which deserved to be depicted the most, turned towards written words, artists were left with nothing to do. Quite naturally they carried on working, choosing worshiping the gifts of their land and men made objects instead. The land and therefore the work of peasants became a part of the new religion. People started worshiping God through devout laborious life, rather than rituals and sermons in obscure Latin. The products of this life has always been there on a table, but now they've become conceptual objects, so artists put a spot light on them. Painters, working on Still-Lives, could still exercise their artistic skills, develop their passion for textures, experiment with colours. Surely you can't change one's mind at once and understandably artists were creating allegories, hiding religious content in between food, flowers, dead animals, drinking glasses and books.
There was a place for Still-Life in the Catholic world too. It wasn't decorative as one might think. Caravaggio was the one who presented a performance of life and death through painting a basket of starting to rot fruit presented in from of Bucchus, proving that Still-Life can be a story-telling companion.
Even if there is no story-telling, there is always a story of passing time. Dead nature, piked or killed by a human, in it's very last shine of existence and its beauty. And a human, with his indisputable power to create a flow movement using his knowledge of composition and colour.
Certainly Still-Life is about community too, as food brings people together. A sociologist Desmond Morris says historically meat eaters had to share the cattle due to its size and valued moments when community gathered, while vegetarians had smaller portions and intended to keep their food for themselves. Possibly unconscious passion for sharing made artists bring into a Still-Life dead pheasants, rabbits or delicacy frutti di mare.
One may question - why animals, fruit&vegetables are there on their own and no men is there for interaction? Presumably a hunter and a collector are having a rest? Realistically two people couldn't gather this feast. There must have been peasants who extracted picturesque vegetables from the soil and collected beautiful fruit from the trees.
Potatoes have already arrived to Europe from South America, but they have never really made its way onto the art scene. They had to wait for Van Gogh to be turned into a masterpiece, but still remained associated with peasants, rather than aristocracy. XVII century Still-Lives look sophisticated, elegant, nobel. The person who was able to contemplate them had probably enough land to provide everything that's depicted lying on the white tablecloth and silver trays.
There is an artist in-between a still-Life and a viewer. A connecting link between particles of nature, collected or killed, and a man who could afford to have them as a provision. But these objects are not the food, they are closer to the original living beings as to a meal. It's never 'prêt à manger'. It's a first excitement of getting provision: the fruit is just picked up and often still has foliage and pedicles, pheasants still wear their feathers, rabbits still have their furs. Only a lemon skin occasionally gets gently peeled, creating yellow scrolls. A human hasn't used them yet. He observes his trophies, ensemble, preserving their rustic beauty.