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Willem Kalf, Still Life with Drinking-Horn

Key facts
Full title Still Life with the Drinking-Horn of the Saint Sebastian Archers' Guild, Lobster and Glasses
Artist Willem Kalf
Artist dates 1619 - 1693
Date made about 1653
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 86.4 × 102.2 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by R.S. Newall, 1978
Inventory number NG6444
Location Room 23
Collection Main Collection
Still Life with Drinking-Horn
Willem Kalf

This still-life painting – one of the most popular genres in seventeenth-century Holland – celebrates the challenges of depicting the play of light on different surfaces and textures. Look at the subtle highlights on the weave of the Turkish carpet, the sheen and lustre on silver and glass, the moist flesh of the lemon and waxy texture of its peel.

The objects chosen also evoke a sumptuous lifestyle. Lobster was a luxury dish and lemons were rare and expensive, as were the fine glass, the oriental rug and silver tableware. It was probably commissioned by a member, or members, of the Saint Sebastian Archers' Guild in Amsterdam. The base of the silver mount which holds the drinking horn depicts Saint Sebastian’s martyrdom – he was tied up and shot with arrows – while the support underneath the table has been carved into a figure of the Roman god Cupid, famous for his arrows of love.

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