Utrecht-born Jan de Heem specialized in virtuosic flower and banquet pieces that were enthusiastically collected by aristocrats and wealthy merchants alike. This exquisite still life presents a harmonious marriage of color and line and attests to the artist’s ability to describe with great precision a range of forms, textures and colors. All the elements are ordered along several axes that meet at the center of the composition, while myriad details throughout, including flowers rendered with the accuracy of a botanist, encourage prolonged examination. However, the sense of movement created by these dynamic lines guides the eye through the still life, so that it does not rest on any one particular detail for too long.
The vanitas theme that was so popular in early examples of the genre waned by the second half of the 17th century, as an interest in the decorative supplanted the emphasis on moralizing iconography. Though de Heem included certain symbols associated with the theme (drooping flowers, a shaft of wheat and short-lived insects), his focus lay in the bravura painting of beautiful motifs in arrangements that signify abundance.
- Artist Name: Jan Davidzoon de Heem (Dutch, 1606-1683/84)
- Title: Vase of Flowers
- Date: 1654
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions: 26-1/2 x 21-3/4 in. (67.3 x 55.2 cm)
- Credit Line: The Norton Simon Foundation
- Accession Number: F.1973.06.P
- Copyright: © The Norton Simon Foundation
[William Hallsborough Gallery, London, sold 19 May 1971 to];
[Paul Rosenberg and Co., New York, stock no. 6410-2686, offered 1 July 1971, and subsequently sold 2 January 1973 to];
The Norton Simon Foundation.
- Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, 1973-02 to 1973-07
Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum, p. 71
Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best, cat. 926 p. 352
Sutton, Peter, Dutch Art in America, p. 215
S. Segal, Tableau 9, no. 4 pp. 32-33
Segal, S.; and L. Helmus, Jan Davids. De Heem en zijn Kring, fig. 33c p. 195
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