Lot 39
  • 39

Cornelis de Heem

150,000 - 200,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Cornelis de Heem
  • Still life of fruit, including a melon, grapes, oranges and peaches, together with an artichoke, celery, walnuts and corn, arranged on a ledge with butterflies and snails before a stone grotto in a landscape
  • signed lower right on the ledge: C. DE. HEEM. f.
  • oil on canvas
  • 64.4 x 78 cm.; 25 1/4  x 30 3/4  in.


Probably Mr J. Kneppelhout (1814–1885), Hemelsche Berg, Oosterbeek;

Probably by descent to the grandparents of the present owner in the 1920s;

Thence by descent.


Catalogue Note

The welcome discovery of this beautifully preserved and detailed canvas provides a significant addition to a small group of exceptionally high quality early works painted by Cornelis de Heem in the mid- to late-1650s. These works were all painted in Antwerp, where the very young Cornelis had moved from Leiden with his family. His father, who was also his teacher, was Jan Davidsz. de Heem (1606–1683/4), perhaps the greatest and certainly the most influential of all Dutch seventeenth-century still-life painters. At this early date, while he was still in his twenties, Cornelis worked and studied in his father's studio. This crucial and formative phase of his career lasted until 1660/61, when Cornelis was admitted to the Guild of Saint Luke in Antwerp as a painter in his own right.

Given the nature of his tutelage, it is no surprise that Cornelis de Heem's youthful work was closely modelled up that of his father, and the present painting is no exception. What is less expected is that on occasions such as this he could come close to matching his father's work for quality. Many elements in the present design, such as the celery, artichoke and melon, have been freely adopted from a larger Still-life of fruit and flowers in a landscape painted by Jan Davidsz. de Heem of 1655 and today in the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg (fig. 1).1 Cornelis did not simply copy his father's work, but freely wove elements from his paintings into his own designs. Another very good signed and dated example from that same year, 1655, is the large Banqueting piece formerly in the collections of the Earls of Shrewsbury and last recorded with John Mitchell and Sons, London, in 1997.2 Here again the young Cornelis skilfully blends many of his father's favoured motifs into an elegant design of his own. On the basis of photographs Fred G. Meijer has suggested a slightly later date for the present canvas to around 1657. He notes that a comparable arrangement of fruit and vegetables is used again by Cornelis in a signed and dated copper of 1658 today in the Städel Museum in Frankfurt-am-Main (fig. 2).3 While the Frankfurt picture differs in its garden setting, the use of the rocky grotto found in the present work recurs in another related Still life with fruits and a wan-li porcelain bowl sold New York, Christie's, 15 April 2008, lot 340, which Meijer again dates to around 1658. This particular landscape device was most likely derived from similar features in the background of Jan Davidsz. de Heem's painting in St. Petersburg, or his earlier Fruit piece of horizontal format from 1653, today in the Staatsgalerie in Schleissheim.

Once Cornelis had begun his independent career, it is no surprise that the direct influence of Jan Davidsz. de Heem lessened. He did not paint large-scale still lifes again, perhaps for simple reasons of economy, and his handling also slowly diverged from that of his father. The elaborate glazing of his early works gave way to a more draughtsmanlike approach and harder colouring. In 1667 he followed his father briefly to Utrecht and by 1676 had moved to The Hague where he belonged to the Confrerie Pictura until 1687. In or around 1690 he returned again to Antwerp, where he died.

1. Canvas, 95 x 124.5 cm. Exhibited Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Jan Davidsz. de Heem und sein Kreis, 1991, no. 17.

2. Reproduced and discussed in F.G. Meijer, The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Catalogue of the collection of Paintings: the Collection of Dutch and Flemish Still-Life Paintings bequeathed by Daisy Linda Ward, Zwolle 2003, pp. 212–13, fig. 34.1.

3. Copper, 69.8 x 87.1 cm. See J. Sander and B. Brinkmann, Niederländische Gemälde vor 1800 im Städel, Frankfurt-am-Main 1995, p. 34, reproduced fig. 40.