Description & Technical information

Positioned next to a bunch of grapes and vine leaves, two boiled lobsters with a cut and peeled lemon and a peach on a pewter plate produce complex reflections in Jan Davidsz. De Heem’s early banketje (banquet piece).

With its restrained colours and thinly applied paint, this beautiful still life on an oak panel belongs to a scarce group of recorded and dated works from the period when De Heem lived in Leiden before he moved to Antwerp in the mid-1630s where he became known for his flamboyant and Baroque flower bouquets. Having experimented with vanitas paintings in his formative years, whilst in Leiden De Heem began to paint in the manner of the Haarlem still life master painters such as Willem Claesz. Heda and Pieter Claesz. who specialized in the ‘monochrome’ ontbijt or breakfast piece pictures. Their cool greyish-brown compositions were highly finished and using the shiny surfaces of Dutch Roemer glasses, tankards and silver or pewter tableware Heda, in particular, achieved illusions of great intricacy. In De Heem’s fine and similarly sized Still Life with a Nautilus Cup (The Barber Institute, Birmingham) also from 1632, it is interesting to compare the prominence he gave to the exquisitely rendered lemon peel- a hallmark of the Haarlem practitioners -with the one in our banquet piece. Looking at the accuracy with which he rendered the surface of the lemon rind, the delicate tendrils of the vine leaves and even the lobsters’ wispy antennae, it seems unsurprising that as his career went from strength to strength once in Antwerp, De Heem was destined to become perhaps the greatest of all the still life and flower painters in the Netherlands. Born in Utrecht and having studied with Balthasar van der Ast, one of the founding fathers of still life paintings, De Heem subsequently absorbed the Flemish traditions of Jan Breughel’s work in Antwerp before taking on his own illustrious pupils such as Abraham Mignon and Elias van den Broeck. Few other artists could boast of a richer heritage within a genre of painting.

Date:  1632
Period:  17th century
Medium: Oil on panel
Signature: Signed and dated: 1632

Dimensions: 75 x 62 x 5 cm (29¹/₂ x 24³/₈ x 2 inches)
Provenance: Sutton Place, Surrey;
Christie’s, London: 9th July 1982, lot 57;
Asbjorn R. Lunde Collection, New York.

Literature: Dr. Fred G. Meijer, Jan Davidsz. De Heem (1606-1684) A dissertation and catalogue raisonné.
Part 1 and part 2, June 2016, Universitaet van Amsterdam, supervised by E.J. Sluijter, catalogued and illustrated, p.32, no. A024

Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints