A Woman Peeling Apples, A Boy Bringing Bread

A Woman Peeling Apples is a typical Dutch work from the seventeenth century. Painted by Peier De Hooch (1629-1683), the canvas depicts a very ordinary scene. An admittedly well-dressed woman peels apples, receiving some assistance or encouragement from a small child, who presumably waits to consume one of the denuded fruits. Who is this woman?

Similarly, the same artist produced A Boy Bringing Bread, another scintillating scene from every day life. This time a boy brings bread…and a woman accepts it. All very mundane, all very ordinary. Yet Dutch painters of that century saw beauty in the usual, the casual and the commonplace. Whether it was because of their republican government which shed hereditary royals, or the country’s famous Calvinism which perceived God’s elective purposes and people among the humble and the plain, Dutch painters opted for every-day folk as their subjects, rather than aristocrats or generals. Regular people conducting regular affairs were their preferred focus, which prove just as difficult to paint, and just as charming to behold.

God occasionally does save the rich and the powerful, but He also saves the humble and the overlooked, the common and the vernacular. Furthermore, the Reformation lowered the status of clergy from priestly magicians to servants and preachers, while exalting the ordinary occupations of the average Christian. The godly butcher and pious baker were no less deserving of God’s favour or His people’s respect than the monks or nuns who ran away to lives of cloistered aloofness. To rightly serve God, one need not become a missionary, an elder or a pastor. God often calls His people to be mums and dads, factory workers, shop keepers and carers. Do not despise the humble place to which God has brought and called you, but rather remember the humility of Him who bought you, and the eternal glory to which one day He shall beckon you.

If on our daily course our mind

be set to hallow all we find,

new treasures still, of countless price,

God will provide for sacrifice.


The trivial round, the common task,

will furnish all we ought to ask:

room to deny ourselves; a road

to bring us daily nearer God.

-John Keeble, 1822