Lot 47
  • 47

Jan Davidsz. De Heem

500,000 - 800,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Jan Davidsz. de Heem
  • Still-life with a lobster, fruit and blue and white ‘kraak’ dishes, from the Ming Dynasty, Wanli period, all laid upon a table partly covered in cloth, a large roemer filled with white wine on a casket, a façon-de-venise glass also filled with white wine and a silver tazza with grapes and plums
  • bears indistinct signature on the table, lower left
  • oil on canvas


Anonymous sale, Galerie Fievez, Brussels, 12 December 1925, lot 48;

Schmidt collection, Berlin (as David de Heem); according to Marburg photo archive, photographed before 1937;

Anonymous sale, London, Christie’s, 7 May 1937, lot 59, to Stevenson, for £136.10 (catalogued as signed and dated 1645 and sold with the certificates of Dr. W. Bode and Dr. Max Friedländer);

Anonymous sale, London, Christie’s, 7 July 1978, lot 212 (as Joris van Son);

With the Lasson Gallery, London, 1979;

In the present collection, London, by 1999.


Die Weltkunst, 1 July 1979, p. 1633, reproduced in colour;

E. Greindl, Les Peintres Flamands de Nature Morte au XVIIe Siecle, Sterrebeek 1983, p. 382, cat. no. 84 (as Joris van Son, but listed under 'unsigned works');

To be included in the forthcoming catalogue of the works of Jan Davidsz. de Heem by Fred G. Meijer, currently in preparation.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Jan Davidsz. De Heem. Still Life. Indistinctly signed on ledge. This painting has been lined three or four decades ago with wax and resin, with a loose backcloth. The restoration is also from that period, with a varnish which is fine and transparent (while becoming more opaque under ultra violet light). The stretcher is not particularly recent and is firm and strong. There has been one little old tear from the top edge running down briefly for about two inches near the top right corner, but no other past accidental damage. There is a fine craquelure throughout. Much magnificent detail is perfectly preserved, including the astonishing reflections in the glass on the right, the vivid sensual feel of the lemon peel, and of the hazel nuts nearby, with the curling branch of figs in the shadow above. There is occasional slight thinness, for instance in the grapes further from the light below which are a little thin and faint as is the peach just above, but elsewhere every delicacy or sumptuous colour or fruit or work of craftsmanship is richly relished and polished. One or two small retouchings can just be seen on the red fruit at lower left with occasional touches in the white drapery, but as is often the case it is the dark background which has been more vulnerable. There are various old retouchings in the background on the left mainly, with a little also around the edge of the bowl on the central stand and in the shadow inside the central glass. One old filling is retouched beside the traces of the signature on the ledge. The great central still life however has been exceptionally well preserved almost throughout. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

It was in Antwerp that Jan Davidsz. de Heem first painted his celebrated pronkstilleven or luxury still-lifes, abundant displays on tables overladen with ornate glass and silverware, fruit and crustacea. As Fred G. Meijer has observed, this striking still-life is datable to 1651. The combination of glass, jewel casket and lobster recurs in a number of paintings of this period. Closest in size and spirit is the Still-life with Ham, Lobster and Fruit, of circa 1653 in the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam.1 There are a number of similarities between the latter and the present work. In both, an ornate velvet-covered casket gives height to the arrangement and is used as a plinth for the wine-filled roemer. Subtle permutations of green – to render melon skin, precious drapery, vine leaves and grapes – create a rich tonal range against which other colours are offset. In the case of the present painting, its rich colour accents are dominated by the bright yellow of the lemons and the intense orange-red of lobster and plums. The dominant compositional device in both pictures is the diagonal sweep from the top of the casket, across the table to the opposite corner, where plums and shrimp give a burst of colour in a beautiful harmony of pinks and vivid reds. The painted curlicues of the shrimps’ antennæ are just one example of De Heem’s attention to detail in this painting. In both compositions, objects protrude off the edge of the table. Most inventive in the present work is the cut lemon, its peel spiralling down in a coil of pith and peel; the alternating textures – smooth and irregular – are palpable. In the Rotterdam picture a half-peeled orange replaces the lemon.

In this picture the refined repetition of basic shapes is given elegant variation in the forms of the glassware, where tall and thin alternates with rounded or rectilinear outlines and reflections. The same glass with distinctive amphora-like handles on the stem that appears in the centre of the present work is also to be found in a still-life dated 1648 in the Liechtenstein Collection, Vaduz.2 The grouping of glass, casket and lobster in different combinations recurs in a number of pictures, an early example of which is Still Life with Lobster, in the Wallace Collection, London, painted c. 1645–50.The same elements reappear in an impressive canvas on a larger scale, Still-life with Lobster, Fruit and Nautilus in the Pushkin Museum, Moscow.4 A more baroque example is the Still-life with Fruit and Lobster, datable to between 1648 and 1649, in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. Instead of the silver tazza in the present picture, it has an ornate ewer.5 The elaborate silver tazza would appear to be a rather infrequent motif in De Heem’s works of this type and period. The relative austerity of the background of Still-life with a Lobster is interrupted by a nail at the upper left, a device first conceived by De Heem in the previous decade to enhance the sense of depth and which by the 1650s, becomes almost a signature motif.

We are grateful to Fred G. Meijer for confirming the attribution to Jan Davidsz. de Heem, following first-hand inspection. This work will be included in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of De Heem, currently in preparation. 

1. 1289 (OK). Oil on canvas, 75 x 105 cm., reproduced in S. Segal, A Prosperous Past. The Sumptuous Still Life In The Netherlands 1600–1700, The Hague 1988, p. 150, pl. 39.

2. Fruit Still-life with a Silver Beaker. Inv. no. G 778. Oil on panel, 46 x 65 cm., reproduced in Liechtenstein Museum Vienna. The Collections, ed. J. Kräftner, p. 382, X.28.

3. P175. Oil on canvas, 79.2 x 102.5 cm., reproduced in J. Ingamells, The Wallace Collection. Catalogue of Pictures, Vol. IV, Dutch and Flemish, London 1992, p. 139.

4. Kat. 1957, Nr 529.

5. Kat. Nr. 3/75. Oil on canvas, 95 x 120 cm., reproduced in Gemäldegalerie Berlin. Gesamtverzeichnis der Gemälde. Complete Catalogue of Paintings, London 1986, cat no. 505, p. 233.