Circle of Jan Davidsz. de Heem

1606 – 1684

A Still Life with a Nautilus Shell, Grapes, Cherries, a Lemon and a Pomegranate on a draped Table


Oil on Panel


Still Life


39(h) x 56(w) cms


old inscription verso: 'J. D. de Heem. / pintor [...Holandes.]'


Jan Davidsz de Heem was the son of David de Heem. He was born a Protestant in Utrecht, where his father was a musician. Although it is not known who his teacher was, his early fruit still lives were greatly influenced by Balthasar van der Ast. In 1625 Johannes de Heem (which is how he usually signed his early works) moved to Leiden with his mother, stepfather and sisters. In 1626 he married Aletta van Weede and they had three children, one of whom, Cornelis, was to become an accomplished still life painter in his own right. It was in Leiden that he established his reputation as a still life painter, and where he came into close contact with Pieter Potter. He was also at this time influenced by Pieter Claesz in Haarlem and J.Jansz den Uyl in Amsterdam, but it is not known whether de Heem actually visited either of these towns. He is last recorded in Leiden in 1631 and from there he travelled to Antwerp where he joined the Guild in 1636, becoming a Burgher of that city in 1637. The Antwerp years were his most productive and during this time he established his great reputation. After his wife's death in 1644 he married Anna Ruckers. They had six children, including Jan Jansz de Heem. By 1665 he is recorded in Utrecht and by 1667 he seems to have closed his Antwerp studio. However, after the French invasion of the North Netherlands in 1672, de Heem moved back to Antwerp, where he died.

De Heem's lasting testament to still life painting was his extraordinary skill at painting the most naturalistic of textures, delicate shades of light and detail. His rapid development from his earliest pictures, so indebted to van der Ast and Claesz, to his more mature and individual style covers a great number of influences. Such was his prowess, however, that he surpassed many of the great masters who had given him inspiration in the first place.


Private Collection, Spain