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Still Life with a Lobster
Willem Claesz. Heda
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Although apparently casually displayed, the objects in this still life would immediately have suggested wealth and extravagance to a seventeenth-century viewer. The cloths have a satin-like sheen, and the objects on them are all expensive luxuries. They‘re carefully chosen, not just because they are rare and precious but because they proudly show how Dutch merchants brought exotic items from far-flung parts of the globe.

They also demonstrate Heda’s skills in painting textures and objects projecting out of the picture towards us in subtle, rich colours. Embroidered onto the tablecloth is a cipher that seems to refer to a merchants’ guild, perhaps implying that the painting was commissioned by such a company. The handsome red lobster with the beady eye, placed with such prominence, suggests a connection with the sea as the source of their wealth.

Key facts
Artist Willem Claesz. Heda
Artist dates 1594 - 1680
Full title Still Life with a Lobster
Date made 1650-9
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 114 x 103 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by Frederick John Nettlefold, 1947
Inventory number NG5787
Location in Gallery Not on display
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