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Un Univers intime. Paintings from the Frits Lugt Collection
english | français
Jan Davidsz. de Heem
(Utrecht 1606-1683/84 Antwerp)
Still life with books
Panel, 31.2 x 40.2 cm; signed and dated 1628
Acquired in 1918; inv. 183

This painting dates from De Heem’s early career. The monochromatic composition – a style in vogue from 1625 onwards – contrasts powerfully with the sumptuous, colourful still lifes that the painter produced later in Antwerp. At the time, he was working in the city of Leiden, where this type of still life with books was very popular, probably because the city was home to its famous university, the oldest in the Netherlands: professors and students would have understood the allusions to the vanity of knowledge conveyed in this pictorial motif.