Jan Davidsz. de Heem, the greatest still life painter of the seventeenth century in the Netherlands, if not in Europe, was trained in his native Utrecht. Having worked in Leiden, he settled in the Habsburg-controlled southern Netherlands, being enrolled in the Antwerp guild of St. Luke between September 1635 and September 1636. By then he was already an accomplished still life painter of some thirty years of age.
The Antwerp tradition of still life painting, sustained by the followers of Jan Brueghel I and enriched by Frans Snyders, must have been congenial to de Heem, who never wholly accommodated his vision to the monochrome style developed in the 1630s by Pieter Claesz. and Willem Claesz. Heda in Haarlem. In Antwerp, de Heem's love of rich colour effects, precious objects delicately portrayed and fruits of the earth in abundance found expression in a baroque style, first fully expressed in the picture of 1640 in the Louvre.
The impact of de Heem's art was inevitably greatest in Antwerp and Utrecht. Although, besides his two sons, Cornelis and Jan Jansz., only a small number of pupils are documented, that included among them artists of the calibre of Alexander Coosemans (1627-89) and Joris van Son (1623-67) in Antwerp, and in Utrecht Jacob Marrell (1614-81) and, especially, Abraham Mignon, who collaborated on several of de Heem's paintings and who was, at his best, a rival for his master. That de Heem was able to attract such pupils reflected the fact that he was considered to be one of the greatest painters of his age by his contemporaries, and was correspondingly well paid for his work (a portrait of Prince William III surrounded by a cartouche of flowers and fruit (Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts) was sold for 2,000 guilders, one of the highest prices ever paid for a painting during the Golden Age).
Fred Meijer, who confirmed the attribution of the present work having viewed it in the original, notes three copies after the present - clearly popular - composition: one (83.8 x 64.6 cm) offered at Christie's, Amsterdam, 9 November 1998, lot 29, then Christie's South Kensington, 5 July 2000, lot 352; another (67 x 53.4 cm), at the Muzeum Narodwe, Warsaw; and another (58 x 49 cm) with Rapps Konsthandel, Stockholm, 1953, as by Laurens Craen.