Historically, “Shambles” referred to a table or stall for preserving goods, especially meats, for sale. Thus, the assigned title of this painting merely describes its setting. Though the large display of fish is an ichthyologist’s dream, the interaction between the male fishmonger and a female customer constitutes the real drama. Collected by James Bowdoin III, the painting may recall scenes he witnessed during his own European travels. Trade and maritime commerce were frequent themes in European art of the seventeenth century.
still life with fish; man with cleaver at left, woman with basket at right
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