This is one of a set of four pictures which take as their theme the four elements of 'Earth', 'Water', 'Air' and 'Fire'. In the art of the Low Countries in the later 16th and 17th centuries it became common to symbolise the elements by references to the natural world. Here, seductive representations of market produce for sale or for cooking are combined with relevant Biblical episodes. Beuckelaer's series of paintings are among the earliest and most accomplished fusions of these themes. These four pictures were produced in Antwerp, probably for a patron in Italy.
Fire is one of Beuckelaer's most ambitious works, combining the still life of haunches of meat and poultry being prepared for cooking on the fire beyond with a dramatic use of perspective constructions involving multiple vanishing points. Beyond the kitchen Christ is shown seated with Martha and Mary.
From The National Gallery Podcast: Episode Twenty Nine, March 2009