This is one of five known dated still-lifes by Heda from 1631 with close affinities to the example in the Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, which also features a pie, roemer, watch and knife, this time shown in its sheaf. The half-peeled lemon is a recurrent motif in the artist's work. Lemon was used to improve the taste of wine, but was clearly favoured for artistic reasons, lending a strong colour accent and textural variation to these compositions.
Heda's output from the early 1630s is generally regarded as his most refined. His earliest known work is from 1628, so in the space of only a few years Heda built his reputation, founded on the remarkably accurate and original portrayal of objects within harmoniously balanced compositions. These works were intended for quiet contemplation, but often carried subtle messages to the contemporary viewer. In the present work, Fred Meijer has pointed out that in spite of the abundance on display, there are deliberate allusions to moderation, such as the half-filled roemer and the modest sized slice cut from the pie. The timepiece accordingly alludes to the transitory nature of life and the passage of time.
We are grateful to Fred Meijer, of the RKD in The Hague, for confirming the attribution after inspection of the original.