Heda's monochrome banketje
still lifes are among the greatest achievements of the Dutch Golden Age. He first began to paint them in the early 1630s, and their constituent parts are remarkably consistent: simple groups of objects, typically glass and silverware as here, accompanied by lemons and other food, all placed in close relationship to one another upon a simply draped table. Towards the end of the decade, however, the time at which this picture was painted, Heda's compositions began to become more complex. This process can be seen by a comparison between this panel of 1638 and two earlier works, a Still life with roemer, tazza, lemon and pie
of 1631 sold in these Rooms 11 December 2003, lot 61, and another Still life with roemer, overturned tazza and pie
painted the following year in 1632.1
The motifs of the overturned silver tazza, resting alongside a roemer
half-filled with wine, and the plates with partly eaten pie and peeled lemons are common to all three works and indeed occur throughout the decade. All three works share a similar composition, with the rounded plates arranged in a circle, offset by the strong vertical accent established by the roemer
. This is reinforced here by the addition of another flute, a façon de Venise
wine glass, a beer glass and a very fine gilt cup and cover, to create a rather more sumptuous and luxurious effect. The elaborate gilt cup and cover or pronkbeker
was an element used quite sparingly by Heda, but similar types appear as early as 1632 in a Still life with oysters
recorded by Vroom in a private collection, and again in the famous Banketje
of 1635 in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.2
Despite this increasing complexity of design, Heda's primary interest remained in the effects of reflected and refracted light, with texture and surface rendered and explored within a simple and muted palette. His control and observation of detail remain undiminished. The reflection of the windows in the glass of the roemer are carefully and accurately transcribed, and the glints of light reflected by the surface of the underside of the tazza and splendidly ornate gilt cup beautifully conveyed. The modest slice cut from the pie may subtly allude to moderation in the midst of such luxury.
1. Sold London, Christie's, 6 July 2010, lot 24.
2. N.R.A. Vroom, A Modest message as intimated by the painters of the 'Monochrome Banktje', Schiedam 1980, vol. I, pp. 57, 61, colour plates 71 and 76, vol. II, pp. 67, 70, nos. 335 and 351a.