Vase of Flowers
Jan Davidzoon de Heem (Dutch, 1606-1683/84)
On View

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

Object Information

Lt.-Col. Alfred Henry Hudson (1850-1946?), Wick House, Pershore, Worcestershire.
[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.

[on loan]

  • Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, 1973-02 to 1973-07

[on loan]

  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1973-07 to 1974-11

Significant Objects: The Spell of Still Life

  • Norton Simon Museum, 2012-07-20 to 2013-01-21

Tulips are in Bloom

  • Norton Simon Museum, 1993-04-29 to 1993-08
  • Sutton, Peter, Dutch Art in America, 1986, p. 215
  • S. Segal, Tableau 9, 1987, no. 4 pp. 32-33
  • Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum, 1989, p. 71
  • Segal, S.; and L. Helmus, Jan Davids. De Heem en zijn Kring, 1991, fig. 33c p. 195
  • Wheelock, A. K., Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century (The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue), 1995, p. 106
  • Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best, 2010, cat. 926 p. 352
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