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Willem Claesz. Heda (Haarlem 1594-1680)
PROPERTY OF A FAMILY
Willem Claesz. Heda (Haarlem 1594-1680)

A blackberry pie on a pewter platter, a silver-gilded cup and cover, an upturned tazza, a partly-peeled lemon, a bread roll, hazelnuts, a façon-de-Venise glass, a silver decanter, a roemer, and a knife on a pewter platter, on a partly draped table

Details
Willem Claesz. Heda (Haarlem 1594-1680)
A blackberry pie on a pewter platter, a silver-gilded cup and cover, an upturned tazza, a partly-peeled lemon, a bread roll, hazelnuts, a façon-de-Venise glass, a silver decanter, a roemer, and a knife on a pewter platter, on a partly draped table

signed and dated 'HEDA •1644•' (lower centre, on the edge of the tablecloth)
oil on panel
31 7/8 x 39 7/8 in. (80.6 x 101.5 cm.)
with a red wax seal with monogram on the reverse
Provenance
In the family of the present owner by the early 19th century.

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Lot Essay

This is one of the most significant discoveries in recent years in the realm of 17th-century Dutch still-life painting. A spectacular pronk still life, painted in 1644 by arguably the greatest exponent of the genre, which has survived in extraordinarily pristine condition. The picture belongs to the phase of the Haarlem painter’s career when his compositions took on a richer and more elaborate character. According to Vroom this was when Heda was ‘in the prime of his life, self-consciously at the zenith of his development, and capable of depicting his favourite subject matter in his inimitable style.’ (N.R.A. Vroom, A Modest Message, Schiedam, 1980, I, p. 62, referring to the year 1643).

In this example Heda achieves an overriding sense of monumentality by arranging the objects within a strong pyramidal composition, using the vertical accents of the flute glass, the silver-gilt cup and cover and the silver decanter and establishing diagonal axes through the upturned tazza, the knife and the spoon. Using a typically monochromatic palette, Heda lavishes attention on the subtle differences in the shapes, materials and reflections of the objects, rendering these in a range of silvery grey tones against the more vigorously painted white tablecloth and the yellow accent of the lemon. While the composition is imposing it is by no means overcrowded; each element is meticulously placed and inter-related to create an abiding sense of tranquillity and spatial harmony.

Several of the objects must have been at Heda’s disposal in his studio during the 1640s since they recur in other pictures. The silver decanter can be seen in several works that include the picture also dated 1644 sold, Sotheby’s, London, 14 December 2000, lot 32, and the upright panel of 1643 in the Musée du Petit Palais, Paris. It also appears in the Still Life, datable to the mid-forties, sold in these Rooms, 5 July 2011, lot 35, which in addition features the same blackberry pie on the plate with the spoon at an angle. The silver-gilt up and cover can be seen in another monumental work from 1643, in which the cover has been removed (private collection; see Vroom, loc. cit., I, p. 63, plate 78). The upturned tazza and the peeled lemon recur constantly in his output in the 1640s and are now considered as signature motifs.

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