Emanuel de Witte: The Nieuwe Vismarkt (New Fish Market) in Amsterdam (1655 - 1692)

(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Emanuel de Witte (1617-1692) was a Dutch artist most known for his paintings of interiors of Churches and other buildings. This genre piece is something different and shows an important trade in Amsterdam: selling fish. As fish was perishable and an important part of the diet of people, trade in fish was controled by the city council. The official fishmarket in Amsterdam was since the 14th century the Dam were above the 2 locks of the Dam a place was reserved for the trade. Fishermen would bring the fish to the market were the quality was checked by official inspectors. If passed, the fish was sold on rented benches by members of the Saint Petersguild (the guild of fishmongers), the only people who were allowed to sell fish. The levied excise was inned by the officials of the city council. The selling of fish by the fishermen outside this fishmarket was strictly forbidden - the saint petersguild even had spies in the city to check for illegal trade, the fine was for illegal trade was 25 guilders - about a month pay for a merchant! People who wanted to buy but didn't want to transport it themselves could hire an official fishcarrier (recognizable by a copper fish on their doublet) for this. Later other fish markets appeared for special types of fish: 

seafish: the Dam
riverfish: the Dam, near the meathalls and the Haarlemmersluis
shrimps: on the Singel, neat the Hand- and Footbowbuildings
Mussels & oysters: near the Haarlemmersluis
buckling: Koningsplein
flatfish (flounder, plaice, dab): at the Bothuisje in the river IJ, at the Spui and the Haringpakkerstoren
eels: Overtoom.
Jews had a special fishmarket near at the Houtgracht

Painting from 1655-1692.