Willem Claesz Heda

A still life of a rummer of white wine, a lemon on a pewter plate, a knife and a glass of ale on a table covered with a dark green cloth

Oil on panel: 16.1(h) x 12.2(w) in /

41(h) x 31.1(w) cm

Signed and dated lower left on the blade of the knife: .HEDA.1634

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BT 236



1594 – Haarlem – 1680


A still life of a rummer of white wine, a lemon on a pewter plate, a knife and a glass of ale on a table covered with a dark green cloth


Signed and dated lower left on the blade of the knife: .HEDA.1634

Oil on panel: 16 1/8 x 12 ¼ in / 41 x 31 cm

Frame size: 23 ¼ x 19 ½ in / 59.1 x 49.5 cm



Private collection, Europe



Willem Claesz. Heda was born in Haarlem, the son of the City Architect Claes Pietersz. (1558-1632) and Anna Claesdr. Rooswijk. He was thus raised in a family that was well-off. Heda’s father belonged to the Bega family, the painter adopted his last name, Heda, from his mother’s family. On a recorded portrait of the artist from 1678, probably no longer in existence, his age was given as 84, which confirms his year of birth, 1594. Nothing is known about Heda’s training, but he may initially have been guided by his uncle, the painter Cornelis Claesz. Heda. Already in 1620, in a Haarlem Most of Heda’s compositions are horizontal and include many more objects than this relatively simple, but delicately still arrangement. Only a few times in his career did Heda choose for such a still and restrained upright composition. An early example from 1629 was with Richard Green in 2002 (1).[i] A poorly preserved variant of that composition from the following year – without grapes, but with a pewter dish of olives – is in the Dutch national collection.[ii] A similarly restrained upright composition, but with a different selection of objects, from 1633, was on the art market in 1996 and later (2).[iii] Possibly also from 1634, or 1635, in view of the similarity with the present work in handling and choice of motifs, is an example that was on the art market in 1970 (3).[iv] Examples of such compositions by Heda after c. 1635 are not known. Only slightly similar and substantially larger is an example from 1649 (4). The date of the present painting, 1636, is also confirmed by strong similarities in the glass, pewter plate, and lemon, with larger and more elaborate examples from the same year, such as a still life in the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, and one in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid (5, 6).[v]

            Often, Heda appears to have kept objects as studio props, since they recur in a number of his still lifes. This is in fact true for most of the objects shown here. The rummer with a conical cuppa and thorn-shaped prunts can be found in many of Heda’s still lifes – although he must have owned several different examples. Pewter plates like this one abound in his still lifes and can hardly be discerned from each other, but the knife with an ebony handle decorated with metal (silver?) dots appears in a few other still lifes by Heda, among them a painting from 1635 that was with Richard Green in 1993, as well as in another example from the same year, now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.[vi] After that, it only seems to appear in a work from 1636.[vii] The bubbled glass beaker standing next to the rummer, although a common object at the time, does not appear in other Heda still lifes from the 1630s, usually he depicted plain cups.[viii] Hazelnuts, whole and broken, appear in many of Heda’s still lifes.


Often, particularly for his smaller works, Heda ‘zoomed in’ on his still lifes, thus creating a rather intimate atmosphere, which gives the viewer the impression that he has the laid table all to himself. This is certainly the case in this relatively small example. Heda’s works do not abound in symbolism, but he does seem to advocate modesty, with the partly filled glasses, and by the notion that only one of the hazelnuts that has been cracked. Perhaps the lemon, which was used to moderate the taste of the wine, can also be understood in this sense. Whether or not this still life carries a message, Heda did evoke the still atmosphere of a table that has been left – perhaps only briefly – by its consumer(s). Most of all, it is a treat for the eye.


                                                                     Fred G Meijer



 1  2


 3  4









[i] Oil on panel, 46,3 x 36,2 cm, signed and dated 1629.


[ii] Oil on panel, 36 x 32 cm, signed and dated 1630,  Netherlands Institute for Cultutral Heritage (ICN, on loan to the Prinsenhof Museum, Delft), see O. ter Kuile, Seventeenth-century North Netherlandish still lifes, 1985, p. 110, 111, cat. no. VI-24, illustrated.


[iii] Oil on panel, 40 x 33,5 cm, signed and dated 1633, exhibited at TEFAF, Maastricht, by Charles Roelofsz, Amsterdam, 1996, later it appeared with Bob Haboldt, Paris.


[iv] Oil on panel, 47 x 40 cm, signed and indistinctly dated, with P. de Boer, Amsterdam, 1970, published in Vroom 1980 (see note 3), cat. no. 381, as dated 1655. In 1969 and 1970, the painting was published as dated 1651 or 1659 and subsequently as dated 1655.


[v] The first, oil on panel, 43 x 57 cm, signed and dated 1634, inv. no. 1834, the second, oil on panel, signed and dated 1634, inv. no. 1958-1.


[vi] The first, oil on panel, 59,8 x 80 cm, signed and dated 1635, Richard Green catalogue/brochure 1993, colour ill., the second, oil on canvas, 106 x 109 cm, signed and dated 1635, Washington DC, National Gallery of Art, inv. no. 1991.87.1. A variant of this knife appears in several other Heda still lifes, among them the painting from 1635 in the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum mentioned above.


[vii] The fact that this knife seems to have had a short life in Heda’s work is another indication that the painting in fig. 3 (and note 9) dates from the mid-1630s and not from the 1650s.


[viii] An example of this ‘bubble’ cup can be found in an undated example, probably from the 1640s, auctioned at Christie’s in Amsterdam, 12 June 1990, lot 185, colour ill.


Old MasterWillem Claesz Heda