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Cornelis de Heem (Leiden 1631-1695 Antwerp)
PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED COLLECTOR
Cornelis de Heem (Leiden 1631-1695 Antwerp)

Roses, poppies, lillies and other flowers in a glass vase on a stone shelf, a peeled orange and raspberries in a Wan Li bowl on a stone ledge below

Details
Cornelis de Heem (Leiden 1631-1695 Antwerp)
Roses, poppies, lillies and other flowers in a glass vase on a stone shelf, a peeled orange and raspberries in a Wan Li bowl on a stone ledge below
signed 'C. DE.HEEM f.' (lower right, on the ledge)
oil on canvas
24 x 18 in. (61 x 45.7 cm.)
Provenance
with Jan Krugier, Geneva, 1977.
The British Rail Pension Fund; Sotheby's, London, 3 July 1996, lot 68, where acquired by the present owner.
Exhibited
Norwich, Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, on loan, 1981-1991.
London, Agnew's, Thirty-five Paintings from the Collection of the British Rail Pension Fund, November-December 1984.
Birmingham, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, on loan, 1991-1996.

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Lot Essay

Cornelis de Heem was the gifted son of Jan Davidsz. de Heem, arguably the most revered still life painter in the 17th century. Though born in Leiden in 1631, the younger de Heem grew up and spent the first seven years of his career in Antwerp following the family’s move to the city in 1636. In 1667, he was working alongside his father in Utrecht. He is later documented in The Hague and was back in Antwerp by 1691. This ebullient image must be regarded as one of the artist’s finest paintings, a signal work that justifies the high esteem in which the de Heem family has long been held.

The compositionally complex two-tiered ledge that de Heem exploits in this painting is seldom encountered in the artist’s works. A similar arrangement however, appears in de Heem’s more staid Fruit still life of about 1670 in the Mauritshuis, The Hague (fig. 1). Just as de Heem united the two tiers in the Hague composition through the diagonally oriented wheat stalks and woody grape vines, so too does he here by his intelligent arrangement of color. The unpeeled orange on the lower ledge finds its match in the depiction of several brilliantly colored poppies above, while the abundant red strawberries that nearly overflow the Wan Li bowl at lower right play seamlessly off the profusion of red flowers scattered throughout the bouquet.

This painting was once a part of the venerable collection of the British Rail Pension Fund. In a historically significant moment, beginning in 1974, the Fund became the first of its kind to treat art as an investment vehicle. It ultimately devoted £40 million, or about three percent of its holdings, to acquiring works of superlative quality as a means of diversifying its assets. At its peak, the fund had assembled one of the most important and diverse collections in Europe, including exceptional works by Goya, Picasso and Monet.

We are grateful to Fred Meijer for endorsing the attribution to Cornelis de Heem following firsthand inspection of the work.

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