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Jan Davidsz de Heem - Still life with apricots on a pewter plate, a cut lemon and other fruit, with a rummer of white wine and a Venetian-style wine glass on a table covered with a green cloth, wreathed with a vine branch

Jan Davidsz de Heem

Still life with apricots on a pewter plate, a cut lemon and other fruit, with a rummer of white wine and a Venetian-style wine glass on a table covered with a green cloth, wreathed with a vine branch

Oil on panel: 13.5(h) x 20.7(w) in / 34.3(h) x 52.7(w) cm
Signed and dated lower left: JD. De heem. F. A° 1652

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JAN DAVIDSZ DE HEEM

Utrecht 1606 - 1683/84 Antwerp

Ref: CA 183

                                               

Still life with apricots on a pewter plate, a cut lemon and other fruit, with a rummer of white wine and a Venetian-style wine glass on a table covered with a green cloth, wreathed with a vine branch

 

Signed and dated lower left: JD. De heem. ƒ. A° 1652

Oil on panel: 13 ½ x 20 ¾ in / 34.3 x 52.7 cm

Frame size: 22 ½ x 29 ¼ in / 57.2 x 74.3 cm

 

 

 

 

Provenance:

Possibly collection Widow Janssens, Antwerp, her sale, Antwerp, Mertens, 23 August 1808, lot 12 (sold 52 Francs to Andreas Bernardus de Quertenmont [Kwartemon]) [i]

Collection F.W. Smallpeice;

sale of his deceased estate, London, Christie’s, 26 March 1971, lot 59, ill. (as dated 1632, sold GNS 18000 to Richard Green);

Richard Green Gallery, London, 1971 (as dated 1632, advertised in The Connoisseur, July 1971, p. 11, colour ill.);

Collection Jim Slater (1929-2015), London;

with Richard Green Gallery;

Private collection, UK

 

Exhibited:

Jan Davidsz de Heem en zijn kring, Centraal Museum, Utrecht / Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Brunswick, 1991 (cat. by S. Segal), cat. no. 14, colour ill.;

The Cabinet Picture. Dutch and Flemish Masters of the Seventeenth Century, Richard Green Gallery, London, 1999 (cat. by C. Wright), cat. pp. 164, 165 (colour ill.), 192

 

Literature:

Burlington Magazine, June 1971, plate XXI (‘Notable works of Art now on the Market’);

F. Lewis, A Dictionary of Dutch and Flemish Flower Fruit and Still Life Painters 15th to 19th Century, Leigh-on-Sea, 1973, pl. 20 (as dated 1632);

E. Greindl, Les peintres flamands de nature morte au XVIIe siècle, Sterrebeek, 1983 (2nd, revised ed.), p. 361 (no. 80, as dated 1632);

Exh. cat. Orbis pictus – Natura morta in Germania, Olanda e Fiandre, XVI-XVIII secolo, Galleria Lorenzelli, Bergamo, 1986 (cat. by P. Lorenzelli and A. Veca), p. 176, fig. 85 (as dated 1632);

S. Segal in exh. cat. Jan Davidsz de Heem en zijn kring, Centraal Museum, Utrecht / Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Brunswick, 1991, p. 17, 18, 38, 41, 83, colour pl., 150, 151 (cat. no. 14, ill.);

C. Grimm, ‘Authenticity and Authorship’, pp. 28-43 in exh. cat. The Lure of Still Life, Bergamo / Düsseldorf, 1995, p. 32, colour detail Pl. 10 (with caption of Pl. 11, the correct caption is that printed with Pl. 9);

S. Craft-Giepmans, Hollandse Meesters. Catalogus van de schilderijen van Hollandse meesters zeventiende en achttiende eeuw, Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Collectie Smidt van Gelder, Antwerpen, Antwerp, 2006, p. 178, fig. 3;

F.G. Meijer, Jan Davidsz. De Heem 1606-1684, Doctoral dissertation,  University of Amsterdam, 2016, Vol. 1, pp. 176, 178, 180 (colour ill.), 181, 322 (detail signature), 366 (colour ill.), Vol. 2, cat. no A 160, p. 182.

 

To be included in FG Meijer, Jan Davidsz. De Heem (1606-1684), Zwolle, 2021 or 2022, cat. no. not yet established

 

 

This still life is an excellent example of the work of Jan Davidsz. de Heem from the first half of the 1650s, a period in which the artist was very prolific and produced some of his best works. It is in an excellent state of preservation, which allows the present-day viewer to still fully enjoy the fine details and the richness of de Heem’s palette. 1652 was a particularly productive year for the artist, with six extant dated works, and another twelve that were most likely painted in the same year or shortly before or after it. To the previous year, 1651, I currently assign fifteen still lifes, five of which are dated, and sixteen to 1653, including nine dated ones. The majority are still lifes on a table, mainly of fruit, in cabinet formats. During those years, Jan Davidsz. de Heem will already have served an international clientele, in addition to the wealthy Antwerp bourgeoisie and Flemish nobility. Among his clients in the Northern Netherlands was the important Amsterdam dealer and collector Marten Kretzer (1598-1670), to whom de Heem had an impression of a print after Rubens dedicated in 1652, the year the present still life was painted. However, if this still life is indeed, as conjectured, the one auctioned in Antwerp in 1808, it may well have been bought by – or painted for – an Antwerp collector and have remained in that city for the next century-and-a-half.

 

Jan Davidsz. de Heem (or: Johannes de Heem) was born in Utrecht, where his father, David van Antwerpen, a musician, had moved from Antwerp. In 1625, the young painter, with his mother and stepfather, moved to Leiden, where he is recorded until 1631. His teacher is unknown, but many of his earliest known paintings (from 1626-1628) show a strong dependence on the work of the Utrecht still-life painter Balthasar van der Ast. Upon leaving Leiden, he may have spent some time in Amsterdam, but by the spring of 1636 he had settled in Antwerp. He paid his membership fees to the Antwerp guild for the first time in the administrative year 1635/36 (which runs from September to September). By 1660, but possibly as early as 1658, he had settled in Utrecht again; he may already have spent longer sojourns there during the previous years. However, he was not recorded as a member of the Utrecht guild until 1669, as far as we can tell now. Following the French invasion in 1672, de Heem returned to Antwerp, where he was buried on 10 February 1684. Jan Davidsz. de Heem was one of the most distinguished and influential still-life and flower painters of the seventeenth century. In the course of his career of some 60 years, more than any other still-life painter, he explored new areas and tried new styles and techniques, developing new approaches, as well as emulating the work of others, always in a highly individual manner. His success was substantial and he attracted a large following, in the Northern as well as in the Southern Netherlands, and abroad. To some degree, his influence on still-life painting can still be felt today.

         

Still lifes of fruit form a red thread through Jan Davidsz. De Heem’s oeuvre. One of his earliest known paintings, still somewhat naïve, is of a basket of fruit in the style of his presumed master, Balthasar van der Ast, juxtaposed with the figure of a young man, probably the artist himself (fig. 1). Only in the 1640s, in Antwerp, however, de Heem fully developed as a painter of still lifes of fruit. In 1675, the artist and writer Joachim von Sandrart claimed that de Heem had moved to Antwerp because ‘there one could have rare fruit of all kinds and sizes, plums, peaches, cherries, oranges, lemons, grapes, and others in finer condition and state of ripeness to portray from life’. Rather, it was the artistic climate in Antwerp, as well as the taste and preference of his clientele that brought de Heem to prominently include a rich choice of fruit in his still lifes. In his large sumptuous still lifes from the first half of the 1640s, such as the one in the Louvre, Paris, from 1640 (fig. 2), de Heem would include clusters of fruit in more elaborate compositions. Only in the later 1640s, pure still lifes of fruit begin to appear, of which a painting now in Karlsruhe, most likely painted in 1649, can be considered as an early example of the type of composition discussed here (fig. 3).

         

From 1650 to about 1655, still lifes of fruit form a prominent group in de Heem’s oeuvre. After his move to Utrecht in the late 1650s, that share is taken over by floral compositions. However, also in this period, still lifes of only fruit constitute a minority; often fruit is combined with crayfish or (an) oyster(s), like in an excellent example, probably painted in 1651, that was with Richard Green in 1994 (fig. 4), or one from 1652 in the Statens Museum in Copenhagen (fig. 5). A pure still life of fruit, also from 1652 and, exceptionally, painted on copper in is the collection of the National Trust at Tatton Park. Previously it had a pendant, of which the location is now unknown (fig.6). Of this group, the still life discussed here is perhaps the most restrained in atmosphere and the most balanced in composition, notwithstanding the opulence of the fruit that is presented. Plums, apricots, and cherries were certainly grown locally, grapes, figs and citrus fruit were more of a luxury, grown locally in greenhouses, or imported from France or Spain. In any case, a table filled with fruit of high quality like this one will certainly have radiated a sense of luxury, particularly since it was unlikely that all this fruit would be available simultaneously. De Heem, too, never had this group in front of him to portray. It was composed with the aid of studies that the artist kept of individual pieces he had studied. The tablecloth, for instance, is virtually identical to that in the still life in Copenhagen in figure 5, while it is also present in a still life in a private collection that also features the same wine glass à la façon de Vénise (fig. 7), most probably also painted in 1652. The vine leaf hovering over the rummer was undoubtedly based on the same model as the one over the silver cup at Tatton Park (fig. 6), and together with virtually the same red admiral butterfly, it is also featured in a still life from the following year, 1653, that was with Richard Green in 1989 (fig. 8).

         

It is unlikely that Jan Davidsz. de Heem intended to invest this still life with any profound symbolism. The opulence and variety of fruit can be interpreted as praise to God’s creation as well as a reminder that such luxury is bound to this life on earth. That this is temporal is subtly indicated by some minor blemishes on some of the pieces of fruit and by the presence of a notorious pest creature, the locust. The little caterpillar above the grapes seems to have been included as a visual pun: it mimics the curve of the branch right next to it. De Heem’s main aim in such pieces, next to creating a pleasing combination of opulence and stillness, is the display of his uncanny skills of verisimilitude. We immediately believe that, rather than at a piece of wood covered with oil paint, we are really looking at a variety of mouth-watering fruit upon a table, that has attracted butterflies and other creatures.

 

 

Essay by Fred G Meijer, author of the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the work of Jan Davidsz. de Heem

 

 

1 Jan Davidsz. de Heem, signed and dated 1626, oil on panel, 34 x 69 cm. Dutch art market, 1965

 

2 Jan Davidsz. de Heem, signed and dated 1640, oil on canvas, 149 x 203 cm. Paris, Louvre, inv. no. 1321

 

3 Jan Davidsz. de Heem, signed, oil on panel, 35,4 x 53,3 cm. Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle, inv. no. 362

 

4 Jan Davidsz. de Heem, signed, oil on panel, 24,3 x 34 cm. Private collection, Rhineland, 1995

 

5 Jan Davidsz. de Heem, signed and dated 1652, oil on panel, 34,5 x 50,5 cm. Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst, inv. no. KMSsp392

 

6 Jan Davidsz. de Heem, both signed and dated 1652, oil on copper, 38,7 x 56,5 cm. National Trust, Tatton Park, and oil on copper, 39,4 x 57,2 cm, London art market, 1955

 

7 Jan Davidsz. de Heem, signed, oil on panel, 33,3 x 48,5 cm. Private collection, on long-term loan to the Musée national d’histoire et d’art, Luxembourg

 

8 Jan Davidsz. de Heem, signed and dated 1653, oil on canvas, 47,6 x 61,6 cm. Private collection, U.S.A.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[i] Described as: ‘Des Abricots sur une assiette d'argent, un citron entamé, des figues, des prunes, une grappe de raisins blancs, des cerises, des verres à vin &c. placés sur une table couverte d'un tapis verd ; des belles feuilles de vigne & des insectes achevent ce morceau qui est une imitation exacte de la nature, sur bois, h. 33 centimêtres l. 49 centimêtres, h. 12 1/2 pouces l. 18 1/2 pouces [Les Cadres ne sont point partie de la Mesure]’ (sight size?). The buyer, Andreas Bernardus de Quertenmont (1750-1835), was an Antwerp artist and director of the Antwerp art academy.

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