Willem Cleasz. Heda
1594 – Haarlem
A still life with a silver globet and a watch on a pewter plate
Oil on panel 40 x 29.5 cm
Collection Graf Samuel von Festetits
Sale, Vienna, 11/04/1859 and 02/05/1859, lot 23
Collection Fr. J. Gsell
Sale, Plach Vienna, Galerie de tableaux; collections d’objets d’art, 14/03/1872, lot 45
Private collection, Austria
Collection Herbert Girardet, Kettwig-Ruhr, Germany
With Bob P. Haboldt & Co, Paris, by whom sold, 20/11/1997, to
Collection Pieter C.W.M. Dreesmann, London, inventory n° B4
Willem Claesz. Heda was born in 1594 and is first mentioned in the records of the Haarlem Guild of Saint Luke in 1631 of which he served as deacon on several occasions after 1637. His earliest known dated painting is a Vanitas still life of 1621 (The Hague, Museum Bredius) which is composed of various objects often associated with Vanitas paintings such as a bowl of glowing embers, smokers' apparel, an overturned glass and a skull.
This work is from Heda's series of monochrome breakfast pieces (banketjes), still lifes which often include decorative glass and metalware, shellfish and partially peeled lemons. Heda is best known for this type of composition, and he worked closely within its confines throughout his career. His still lifes show similarities to those of Pieter Claesz. though they tend to incorporate opulent rugs, porcelain and Venetian glass. Heda's harmony of colour and tone with his refined palate of colours including cool and warm greys, olives and browns with gold and silver-toned accents is representative of early Dutch experiments with monochrome painting. The use of restrained colour allows for an emphasis on richly textured surfaces and reflections on metal and glass. Heda often balances an object on the edge of a table which looks as if it could fall to the ground at any moment to create a sense of movement and suspense in an otherwise still setting.
Heda worked with both horizontal and vertical formats. This painting is one of his vertical compositions emphasized by the tall silver cup which predominates. The evident tarnishing of the silver cup, the overturned glass goblet, broken nut shells and gold pocket watch indicate the transience of time and that someone has been and gone. Two other still lifes by Heda for comparison are a Still life with silver vessels (1638; Hamburg, Kunsthalle) also in a vertical format and his Still life with oysters, rummer and silver tazza (1634; Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen) which is executed in similar monochrome colours with an accent of yellow in the peeling lemon and also includes a glass goblet and silver objects.
Heda's works were in demand during his lifetime. Peter Paul Rubens owned two of his drawings, and copies after Heda appeared in other Antwerp inventories. Jan de Bray painted his portrait in 1678 (now lost). Heda's son and pupil, Gerrit (1620-1702), became a member of the Haarlem Guild of Saint Luke in 1642 and executed works remarkably similar to those of his father.