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Willem Claesz. Heda, Still Life: Pewter and Silver Vessels and a Crab

Key facts
Full title Still Life: Pewter and Silver Vessels and a Crab
Artist Willem Claesz. Heda
Artist dates 1594 - 1680
Date made probably about 1633-7
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 54.2 × 73.8 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Henry J. Pfungst, 1896
Inventory number NG1469
Location Room 23
Collection Main Collection
Still Life: Pewter and Silver Vessels and a Crab
Willem Claesz. Heda

Willem Claesz. Heda uses muted colours to show us the ingredients of a meal – with a focus on quality, not quantity. Everything on the table is expensive: this is the meal of a rich man. The white table cloth is made of damask, a luxurious silk fabric. Lemons were brought in from the Mediterranean, the porcelain blue and white plate came from China, and the pepper, spilt on a pewter plate, arrived in the Dutch Republic on a merchant ship from the East Indies.

Heda’s command of perspective is evident in how he shows the knife on the pewter plate that’s almost dropping off the table close to us. He’s creating the illusion of a real table with real objects. The ivory handle of the knife also protrudes into our space as if it were real, the blade inserted into a cone of paper rolled from a page from an almanac.

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