The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Still life with Lobster
  • Jan Davidsz. de Heem (1606 - 1684)
  • Still life with Lobster
  • Netherlands
  • 1643
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 79.2 x 102.5 cm
    Object size: 111.5 x 133.5 x 13.5 cm
  • Signature: 'J. De heem.f 164[?]3'
  • P175
  • Great Gallery
Further Reading
  • De Heem was best known for his still life depictions of the banquet table, of which this is a fine example. It is a virtuoso display of his ability to capture material textures in paint, from the mouth-watering display of fruit to the skilfully painted reflective surfaces of pewter plates, a drinking glass and silver flagon. De Heem places the still-life elements before a dark wall and then focuses light upon them from the top left. The stark contrasts of light and shade intensify the dramatic effect and lend the picture a peculiar mood of intimacy. On careful inspection, the image is not as straightforward as it first appears: the image of the artist at work can be seen reflected in the shiny surfaces of the drinking glass and flagon. Moreover, the position of the glass, poised precariously on the jewel box, may suggest the insecurity and fragility of life itself, thus prompting the viewer to look beyond the material display to the spiritual world beyond. It was acquired by the 4th Marquess of Hertford in 1843.