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Still life of fruit and a pie on a table

The Royal Collection has a stunning collection of seventeenth century Dutch art

Willem Claesz. Heda (Haarlem 1593/4-1680/2)

Still Life on a Table 1638

RCIN 404790

In an exhibition, Queen's House [London]

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Heda devoted himself to still-life painting and was based at Haarlem throughout his life. Together with Pieter Claesz., he evolved a monochromatic style, portraying – as in the present example – a restricted range of objects: pewter dish, a glass beaker, a rummer, a silver-gilt tazza on its side, nuts, a half-peeled lemon on a pewter dish, a knife, a half-eaten blackberry pie on a larger pewter dish, all set on a table half-covered with a tablecloth.

These are composed on a horizontal axis, but certain aspects of the composition, such as the delicately coiled lemon peel, the handle of the knife and the right edge of the table, suggest a sense of recession - just as the two objects poised at the near edge of the table create dramatic tension. Heda has lavished particular care on the texture of the different surfaces and also, as in the case of the glasses and the pewter, on the reflections. It seems as though someone has just left the table to allow the artist to begin work. Beyond the representation of the objects, the artist has concentrated on the treatment of light and atmosphere.