Excerpt from the Wall Street Journal:
We are introduced to van Aelst by what must be one of the most ostentatious of “ostentatious still lifes” and, at 6½ by 5½ feet, one of the largest. “Pronk Still Life With Armor” (c. 1651) is a riot of richly embellished, highly polished metal, cascading from table to elaborately upholstered chair to floor, glowing against a dark background. There’s a breastplate, a helmet surmounted by a golden dragon, a sword and a dagger with lavish scabbards, miscellaneous ornate gold serving pieces, a nautilus cup and more, amid a waterfall of gleaming fabrics and a staggering amount of gold fringe. (There’s also a gold medallion with van Aelst’s monogram, spotted by the National Gallery’s conservator Melanie Gifford, that confirms his authorship; previously the painting was assigned to van Aelst’s fellow pronk specialist, Willem Kalf.) No surprise to learn that this astonishing picture was commissioned by a French aristocrat.