Overview

The array of objects in this tabletop still life by Gerret Willemsz Heda, including an elaborate salt cellar, a pewter pitcher, a tall fluted glass, and the prominent ham, evokes the prosperity the Dutch enjoyed around the middle of the seventeenth century. The white linen tablecloth is crumpled so that various objects nestle in its folds, which allows the artist to show off his skill in depicting drapery and the sheen of linen through varied effects of light and shade. The partially consumed food and drinks and the disarray of the cloth give the impression that people have just stepped away from the table.

Gerret was the son and pupil of the great still-life master Willem Claesz Heda (1594-1680). In his choice of subject matter, style, and ability, Gerret compares sufficiently close to his father that it is not always easy to distinguish between the two. Still Life with Ham, signed and dated "HEDA 1650," initially entered the National Gallery’s collection as a work by Willem, but subtle differences in style and concept point to the talented hand of Gerret. Still Life with Ham ranks among Gerret’s finest works.

Inscription

on the right edge of the tablecloth: .HEDA. 1650

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

John S. Thacher [1904-1982], Washington, D.C.; bequest 1985 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1997
Rembrandt and the Golden Age: Dutch Paintings from the National Gallery of Art, The Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, 1997, unnumbered brochure, repro.
2002
Matters of Taste: Food and Drink in 17th Century Dutch Art and Life, Albany Institute of History and Art, 2002, no. 23, repro.
2004
Pieter Claesz: Master of Haarlem Still Life, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem; Kunsthaus Zürich; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2004-2005, not in catalogue (shown only in Washington).

Bibliography

1986
Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids and Kampen, 1986: 309.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 96-98, color repro. 97.
1997
Chrysler Museum of Art. Rembrandt and the Golden Age: Dutch paintings from the National Gallery of Art. Exhibition brochure. Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk. Washington, 1997: unnumbered repro.
1997
Hess, Catherine and Timothy Husband. European Glass in The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 1997: no. 50j, repro.
2000
Meijer, Fred G. "Boekbespreking van...[three books related to still-life paintings, primarily from the Netherlands]." Oud Holland 114, no. 2/4 (2000): 233, fig. 7, 236 n. 37, as by Gerret Willemsz Heda and Willem Claesz Heda.
2000
Meijer, Fred G. "Review of three books on still-life paintings " Oud Holland 114, no. 2/4 (2000): 233, fig. 7, repro; and 236, note 37, as by both Gerret Willemsz Heda and Willem Claesz Heda.
2002
Barnes, Donna R., and Peter G. Rose. Matters of Taste: Food and drink in seventeenth-century Dutch art and life. Exh. cat. Albany Institute of History & Art. Syracuse, 2002: 74-75, no. 23, repro.
2003
Gregory, Quint (Henry D. Gregory V). "Tabletop still lifes in Haarlem, c. 1610-1660: a study of the relationships between form and meaning." Ph.D. diss., Dept. of Art History and Archaeology, University of Maryland, College Park, 2003: 3-18, 172, 201.

Conservation Notes

The panel consists of three vertically grained oak boards.[1] All of the boards are of similar width, and the outer ones are slightly thicker. Dendrochronology gives a use date of 1646 onward.[2] Bevels appear on all sides of the reverse, which was not smoothly finished. A thin, off-white ground is visible through the brushstrokes of the tablecloth and background, giving a warm tonality, while the wood grain is prominent overall.

Paint was applied thinly and smoothly in multiple layers with great transparency, much glazing, and crisp brushwork in the fuller bodied light passages. Impasted highlights are blended wet-into-wet. A pentimento of a plate or tablecloth appears beneath the ham, a short length of fringe was begun and abandoned in the lower left of the tablecloth, and the artist changed the bottom contour of the white cloth. Discolored varnish and inpainting were removed in 2008.

 

[1] The wood was analyzed by Dr. Peter Klein, Universität Hamburg (see report dated May 4, 1987, in NGA conservation files).

[2] Dendrochronology by Dr. Peter Klein, Universität Hamburg (see report dated May 4, 1987, in NGA conservation files).

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