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This genre of painting was established as an independent category of art in the 17th century. While the Netherlands were certainly pioneers in the subject, a small number of painters in Continental Europe followed suit - even in these early days. The subject matter for such depictions is focused on, but not limited to: kitchen scenes of delicately arranged fruit and flowers, decadent market scenes of fish, meat and shellfish, composition of hunting trophies as well as studiolo depictions of books, manuscripts and musical instruments. The growing intellectual concern for the natural world, the rise of the middle classes (replacing the state as well as the church as main patrons of the arts) and an increase of urbanisation all contributed to growing interest in inanimate objects.

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