Jan Davidsz. De Heem
- Jan Davidsz. de Heem
- Still life with a roemer on its side, two pewter plates adorned with a partly-peeled lemon, an oyster and a bread roll, all arranged on a wooden table-top
- signed and dated lower left: Johannes. de. heem. Fecit. i629.
- oil on oak panel
- 37.7 by 63.6 cm.; 14 3/4 by 25 in.
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 1 June 1962, lot 7 (for 1,500 gns. to Brod);
Anonymous sale ('The Property of a Lady'), London, Christie's, 5 July 1991, lot 37;
Anonymous sale, Amsterdam, Christie's, 16 November 2005, lot 96, for €132,000;
Art market, Paris, from where acquired by the present collector.
E. Greindl, Les peintres flamands de nature morte au XVIIe siècle, Sterrebeek 1983, p. 359, no. 15, and p. 361, no. 76;
P. Lorenzelli and A. Veca, Orbis pictus - Natura morta in Germania, Fiandra XVI-XVIII secolo, exhibition catalogue, Bergamo, Galleria Lorenzelli, 1986, pp. 87-88, reproduced fig. 30;
I. Bergström, "Another look at De Heem's Early Dutch Period, 1626-1635", in Mercury, no. 7, 1988, p. 44, reproduced p. 40, fig. 5;
S. Segal, Jan Davidsz. de Heem en zijn kring, exhibition catalogue, Utrecht, Centraal Museum, 16 February - 14 April 1991; and Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, 9 May - 7 July 1991, p. 21, reproduced p. 24, fig. 6;
J. Hochstrasser, Life and Still Life: A Cultural Inquiry into Seventeenth-Century Dutch Still-life Painting, (thesis 1995), Ann Arbor, Michigan 2000, pp. 74 and 157, no. 326, and pp. 211 and 628, reproduced fig. 129 and p. 406;
J. Briels, Vlaamse schilders en de dageraad van Hollands Gouden eeuw, Antwerp 1997, pp. 273 and 276, reproduced fig. 227.
Dated 1629, this still life is a key work in our understanding of the young Jan Davidsz. de Heem's development as a still-life painter. The artist's earliest work dates from 1626, when he was twenty, and it was around this time that he moved from Utrecht, where he was born in 1606, to Leiden. De Heem's earliest still lifes betray the unmistakable influence of Balthasar van der Ast who was in Utrecht from 1619 to 1632 and it seems very likely, if not certain, that the young De Heem underwent some sort of training in his Utrecht workshop, given that his earliest known paintings, from 1626-28, are conceived wholly in the Van der Ast tradition and have indeed often been mistaken for the elder artist's work. His last still life painted in Van der Ast's style is from 1628 (private collection, London) and it is a painting that is inconceivable without prior knowledge of, for example, Van der Ast's 1623 Still life with Parrots (Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst).1
The years 1628-29 were key in De Heem's development and the present painting, along with the 1628 dated Still life with a roemer and pocket-watch (Gotha, Schloss Museum),2 are the first in which De Heem's mature style can be perceived. Both this and the Gotha painting are, however, by no means De Heem at his most recognisable and, strangely, they reflect the influence of the proponents of the so-called monochrome 'banketjes' active in Haarlem at this time, Willem Claesz. Heda and Pieter Claesz.. Not until the 1630s did De Heem seem to settle into a style of his own, but even then he was prone to imitate the successes of others such as Jan Jansz. den Uyl, who was also born in Utrecht but active by this time in Leiden.3 As Ingvar Bergström put it in his 1988 article: "In his earliest works Jan Davidsz. De Heeem is like a chameleon... [adopting] the colouring of his temporary artistic environment."4
Compared with the earlier works in the style of Van der Ast, the present still life is notable for the artist's much-enhanced understanding of space. Where his most youthful works incorporate a stacking up of objects one above the other, here De Heem has created a believable space in which one object lies behind another, receding back from the picture plane. Likewise the brushwork is much slicker and more confident and the reflections in the pewter plates are exquisitely rendered. This work is therefore an important bridge between De Heem's youthful, and somewhat slavish, imitations of Van der Ast and the opulent 'pronkstilleven' for which he would soon become the most sought-after of still-life painters in The Netherlands.
1. F.G. Meijer, in Mercury, under Literature, reproduced p. 33, fig. 7.
2. Segal, under Literature, p. 69, reproduced fig. 4.
3. See, for example, De Heem's Still life with a pewter jug of 1635; Bergström, under Literature, reproduced p. 47, fig. 15.
4. Bergström, op. cit., p. 49.