The Flemish-born Jaspar Geeraerts produced this meticulously detailed still life of fruit and tableware, signed and dated 1649, in the year that he was first recorded in Amsterdam. The artist had spent the majority of his career in his native Antwerp, where he registered as a master in the Guild of Saint Luke in 1644. While documentation on his early training is lacking, the style and composition of many of his paintings, including the present work, demonstrate the clear influence of Jan Davidsz. de Heem, who had established a workshop in Antwerp in 1636, only two years after Geeraerts was mentioned as an apprentice by the Antwerp painters’ guild. Indeed, the close affinity of their work attests to Geeraerts’ likely apprenticeship in de Heem’s studio, with the upright format of the present composition, the clear delineation of form and careful attention to surface, light and texture all clearly recalling the older master’s work.
Geeraerts’ mastery of capturing the play of light on surfaces is displayed here in the polished silver ewer, which afforded him the opportunity to include a self-portrait seated at an easel that is reflected off the ewer's shimmering surface. This trope was not uncommon in seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish still life painting, and could be found in the work of leading artists in the genre, like Pieter Claesz. in his Vanitas with a violin and glass ball of circa 1628 (Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg) and Clara Peeters’ Still life with flowers and goblets of 1612 (Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe).
In 1641, the Leiden painter Philips Angel extolled the merit of including such naturalistic details in his Lof der schilder-konst in what he described as the ‘schijn-eyghentlijcke kracht’ (‘appearance-simulating power') of painting (for further commentary, see C. Brusati, ‘Stilled Lives: Self-Portraiture and Self-Reflection in Seventeenth-Century Netherlandish Still-Life Painting’, Simiolus, XX, no. 2/3, 1990-1991, p. 171). Much like the reflected self-portrait, the trompe l’oeil scrap of paper affixed to the wall in the painting's upper righthand corner demonstrates the artist's exceptional mimetic skills. They equally – and cleverly – help to connect the pictorial space with that of the viewer.