Jan Davidsz. de Heem still life goes up for auction for the first time in two centuries

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'A banquet still life1 by Jan Davidsz. de Heem could fetch up to $7.9 million when it goes up for auction at Christie's.
'A banquet still life1 by Jan Davidsz. de Heem could fetch up to $7.9 million when it goes up for auction at Christie's.

"A banquet still life" by Jan Davidsz. de Heem is set to go under the hammer December 15 at auctioneer Christie's, during its upcoming London "Old Masters" sale series. The still life -- an emblematic banquet scene that inspired several masterpieces by French artist Henri Matisse -- could set a new auction record for the Dutch painter's work.

"A banquet still life" is one of the most important still life paintings in the oeuvre of Jan Davidsz. de Heem. It is the culmination of a series of four monumental canvases painted by the Dutch artist between 1640 and 1643, which hang in museums such as the Louvre and the Met.

In the 17th century, still life works were popular among rich European patrons, and Jan Davidsz. de Heem is recognized as one of the founding figures of the Dutch Golden Age genre. Writing in the Grove Dictionary of Art, the art historian and biologist Sam Segal considers that: "No painter had a greater influence on the development of Netherlandish still-life painting during the 17th century as Jan Davidsz. de Heem."

"A banquet still life" will go on the market at Christie's for the first time since 1817, when the painting was sold in Amsterdam to the current owner's ancestors. It is expected to fetch GB£4 million- £6 million (US$5.3-$7.9 million), potentially setting a new record for the work of Jan Davidsz. de Heem. A still life titled "Banquet Still Life with a Lobster" by the Dutch painter sold to a private collector for $6.6 million at Christie's in 1998.

"A banquet still life" will be on display in Christie's London galleries December 11-15 before going up for auction in the "Old Masters evening sale."