Library Interior with Still Life

Jan van der Heyden (Dutch, 1637-1712)
Oil on canvas 
27 x 22-1/2 in. (68.6 x 57.2 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
On View

Near the end of his life, Jan van der Heyden depicted this subject three times with slight, but meaningful, variations. All of his libraries are similarly composed—furnished with a marble table, imported Chinese silk and Japanese ceramics, celestial and terrestrial globes, and, at center, an open atlas published by Jan Blaeu, one of the Dutch Republic’s leading globe and mapmakers. Unique to this version, a low-burning candle illuminates the sumptuous interior, inspiring deeper consideration of the relationship between the physical and metaphysical. Is the light a sign of an industrious reader who has foregone sleep? Is the flame a metaphor for enlightenment? Or is it a flickering memento mori soon to be extinguished?


Possibly Huybert Ketelaar, Amsterdam (†sale, Amsterdam, Henrik de Winter & Jan Yver, 19 June 1776, no. 88.
[H.C. DuBois et al sale, Frederick Muller & Cie, Amsterdam, November 27-28, 1906, lot 283 as Anonymous Master to];
Cornelis Gerardus 't Hooft, Amsterdam (1866-1936) in 1911/12.
[Kunsthandel Goudstikker, Amsterdam, by 1922 - until 1927 (to, or in partnership with?);]
[Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 1927 July 14, sold 10 October 1935 to;]
John Hugh Smith, London, (sale Christie's, London, 21 July 1944, lot 95, passed; J. Hugh Smith sale, 1 December 1944, lot 93, bought in, according to Christie’s clerk’s copy).
[?Thomas Agnew and Sons, Ltd., London].
Private collection, London, (sale Christie's, 29 November 1968, lot 73, to);
[Walter Feilchenfeldt, Zurich; sold 1972 to];
The Norton Simon Foundation.

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