Jan Davidsz. de Heem

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Circle of Adriaen Brouwer. Portrait of Jan Davidsz. de Heem. 1630s.

Jan Davidsz. de Heem or in-full Jan Davidszoon de Heem, also called Johannes de Heem or Johannes van Antwerpen (ca. 17 April 1606 – before 26 April 1684), was a still life painter who was active in Utrecht and Antwerp. He is a major representative of that genre in both Dutch and Flemish Baroque painting.

Life and work[edit]

Portrait of William III of England, aged 10, in a flower garland decorated with symbols of the House of Orange. This painting was taken to France as war booty in 1795, where it has remained.[1]

De Heem was one of the greatest painters of still life in the Netherlands, combining a brilliance and harmony of colour along with an accurate rendering of objects: flowers, in all their variety; European and tropical fruits; lobsters and oysters; butterflies and moths; stone and metal; snails and sea shells. Some of his works are displays of abundance; others, only a festoon or a nosegay. Often he would convey a moral or illustrate a motto: a snake lying coiled under grass; a skull on plants in bloom. Gold and silver cups or tankards are suggestive of the vanity of earthly possessions. Salvation is seen allegorically as a chalice amid blossoms, and death as a crucifix in a wreath. Sometimes de Heem painted, alone or with others, Madonnas or portraits in garlands of fruit or flowers. His signature varied: his initials (J. De Heem f.), or Johannes (IOANNES DE HEEM F.), or his father's name adjoined to his own (J. D. De Heem f.). Occasionally he provided a date (such as A. i65i), especially with his best work.

De Heem was born in Utrecht as Johannes van Antwerpen. He studied first under his father David de Heem the Elder (1570–1631), then under Balthasar van der Ast. He lived in Leiden from about 1625 to 1629, where he studied in 1629 under David Bailly (1584- c. 1657). He entered the painters' guild of Antwerp in 1635 or 1636 and became a burgher of that city in 1637. However he was often absent, as attested by the duties he had to pay for this. He remained in Antwerp until 1667, when he moved back to Utrecht, where records trace his presence from 1668 to 1671. He left Utrecht in 1671 when French troops were approaching the city. It is not known when he finally returned to Antwerp, but his death there is recorded in the guild books. A very early picture, dated 1628, in the gallery of Gotha, bears the signature of Johannes in full and shows de Heem familiar with the technique of the young Aelbert Cuyp. In later years he gained the vigour of his own originality.

His remarkable talent had gained him a considerable reputation. He could hardly satisfy the demand. His sons worked together with him in his workshop on the commissions for new paintings. he retouched their work and put his signature on the paintings. Of the one hundred or more of his pictures seen in European galleries, scarcely eighteen are dated. The earliest, after the one in Gotha, is a chased tankard with a bottle, a silver cup and a lemon on a marble table, dated 1640, in the museum of Amsterdam. A similar work of 1645, with the addition of fruit, flowers and a distant landscape, is at Longford Castle. A chalice in a wreath, with a radiant bouquet among wheat sheaves, grapes and flowers, is a masterpiece of 1648 in the Belvedere of Vienna. A wreath around a life-sized Madonna, dated 1650, in the museum of Berlin, shows that de Heem could paint brightly and harmoniously on a large scale.

In the Alte Pinakothek at Munich is a celebrated work of 1653 in which creepers mingle beautifully with gourds, blackberries, orange, myrtle and peach, and further enlivened with butterflies, moths and beetles. A landscape with a blooming rose tree, a jug of strawberries, a selection of fruit, and a marble bust of Pan, dated 1655, is in the Hermitage at St Petersburg. A medallion wreathed with fruit and flowers, an allegory of abundance, is in the gallery of Brussels, inscribed with de Heem's monogram, the date of 1668, and the name of an obscure artist called Lambrechts. A 1645 still life of a feast of fruit and lobster is in the gallery at the Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin, Ohio. All these pieces show de Heem in full possession of his abilities. A simple still life of pewter goblets can be seen in the Barber Institute in Birmingham UK.

Apart from his three sons, he had several apprentices : Michiel Verstylen, Alexander Coosemans, Thomas de Klerck, Lenaert Rougghe, Theodor Aenvanck, Andries Benedetti, Elias van den Broeck, Jacob Marrel, Hendrik Schoock and Abraham Mignon.[2]

Jan Davidsz. de Heem. Still Life with Fruit, Flowers, Glasses and Lobster. 1660s. Oil on canvas. 87,5 x 72,5 cm. Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels.

Family[edit]

A number of de Heems, of whom Jan Davidsz. was easily the most distinguished, painted works in similar styles, that are often hard to distinguish. These include a brother, two sons, of whom Cornelis de Heem was one, and at least one grandson by each son.

This family of painters started with the anonymous father of David de Heem the Elder (1570–1631) and an anonymous brother. This anonymous brother had a son, Jan or Johannes de Heem (c. 1603 - † probably after 1659), a painter of still lifes, flowers and fruits.

David de Heem the Elder had two sons, also painters: Jan Davidsz. de Heem (1606- † before 26 April 1684) and David Davidsz. de Heem (1610 - † after 1669)

Jan Davidsz. de Heem had three sons, all painters; from a first marriage: David Janszoon de Heem (29 November 1628 - † ?), Cornelis de Heem (1631–1695) and from a second marriage Jan de Heem (1650 - † ?)

Cornelis de Heem had one son who was a painter: David Corneliszoon de Heem (1663–1718).

David de Heem the Elder 1570-1632
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jan Davidsz. de Heem 1606-1683
 
 
 
David Davidsz de Heem
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
David de Heem 1628-? Cornelis de Heem 1631-1695 Jan Janszoon de Heem 1650-1695
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
David Cornelisz de Heem 1663-1701
 
 
 
 
 

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