Lot 33
  • 33

Cornelis Jansz. de Heem

700,000 - 900,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Cornelis Jansz. de Heem
  • A still life of roses, poppies, lillies and other flowers in a glass vase on a marble shelf; beneath a partly peeled orange and fraises de bois in a Wan Li porcelain dish, both on a projecting marble ledge
  • signed lower right: C.DE.HEEM f.
  • oil on canvas
  • 24 x 18 inches


With Jan Krugier, Geneva, 1977;
The British Rail Pension Fund collection;
By whom sold, London, Sotheby's, 3 July 1996, lot 68;
There purchased by the present collector. 


Norwich, Castle Museum, on loan, 1981-1991;
London, Agnew's, Thirty-five Paintings from the Collection of the British Rail Pension Fund, November-December 1984;
Birmingham, Museum and Art Gallery, on loan, 1991-1996.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting on canvas has probably been cleaned in the last 20 or 30 years. It does not seem to be particularly dirty, but the varnish has become slightly subdued. The work could be hung as is if the varnish were freshened. However, given the fact that there are hardly any retouches to the work, it may be worth cleaning the picture. The lining has slightly diminished the impasto of the paint layer, but the surface is even and well supported by the lining. The only weakness to the color is in the ochre colors of the golden flowers around the vase, but this color tends to be fickle. The work is in beautiful condition.
"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

Cornelis de Heem was the talented son of arguably the most gifted Seventeenth century still-life painter, Jan Davidsz. de Heem, and this intricatley rendered still life exemplifies the superlative and highly refined work for which the entire de Heem family is justly revered. Cornelis de Heem has here demonstrated the range of his considerable skill through the various lighting and surface qualities within each still life element. From the pebbled surface of the orange rind, to the multiple window reflections in the curved glass vase, the paper thin wispiness of the rose petals, and the jagged stone ledge, each element is articulated with the utmost care and refinement. 

While Cornelis' compositions tend to be somewhat simpler than those of his father, this picture quite clearly incorporates certain iconographic elements commonly found in the work of Jan Davidsz. Many of the same objects and arrangements of such objects, including the orange and rind, Wan Li porcelain bowl, and centrally positioned glass vase are found in the work of the elder painter. Much in the same way that his father sought to compose an elegantly cohesive unit from a profusion of objects, Cornelis here successfully integrates a whole range of elements into a single, unified composition.

We are grateful to Fred G. Meijer of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, The Hague, for supporting the attribution to Cornelis de Heem, based on photographs. 

A note on the Provenance:
This picture once formed part of the famed collection of the British Rail Pension Fund. Beginning in 1974, the British Rail Pension Fund began to invest in art as a means of diversifying its investments. It would ultimately devote £40 million, or roughly about three percent of its holdings, towards art purchases. Focusing on superlative quality, the Fund amassed one of the most important and diverse collections in Europe, including important works by Monet, Picasso, Cranach, Goya, as well an important collection of ancient glass. The present work was sold as part of a series of sales at Sotheby's which included their property in the mid 1990's.