His Most Famous Painting – A Table of Desserts by Jan De Heem

Dutch and Flemis Baroque painter Jan Davidszoon de Heem or Jan de Heem (April 17, 1606 – April 26, 1684) hailed from a family of average painters in Utrecht, The Netherlands. The similarities in the names of Jan de Heem and his father often led to the confusion in ownership & recognition of the works. Nevertheless, his technique and quality was so distinct that it spoke for itself. His brother gave major boost to his artistic talents, though he could not do very well for himself. Jan de Heem was the member of the Painter’s Guild of Antwerp and was counted among the leading artists of that era. His masterpieces adorn many of the museums, castles, and art galleries of those times. A master of still life, de Heem’s brush strokes were so perfect that he could infuse life in motionless objects. Painted in the year 1640, his most famous painting “A Table of Desserts” is one such magnificent, where inanimate objects seem to have come alive.

“A Table of Desserts” by de Heem is a highly ornate representation of a lavish eating table. The shining wine glasses, the wine bottles in the container, the bejeweled jugs, plates, & fruit stand, and the fresh fruits in the scene impart a sense of nobility and the abundance of some connoisseur. Jan’s portrayal of dining tables was remarkable for their stacked appearance, rather than well laid and organized arrangements. The dining table in “A Table of Desserts” is stuffed with rich fruits and delicacies, some of which are leftovers and others, untouched. A lute and a recorder are shown leaning against the table on the right side of the frame. In the centre of the table, there is an empty wine glass and partially eaten pie, giving an impression that the desserts had been had. Nearby, a plate laden with various fruits is piled up over a basket and is left untouched. Next is a glass full of wine, and garnished with lemon rind is kept in a plate. The maroon curtains in the backdrop are carelessly drawn, just as the green colored crumpled velvet tablecloth.

“A Table of Desserts” by Jan carries a symbolic essence apart from an elaborate representation. The collection of fruits from different parts of the year, such as lemon, apple, orange, grapes, pineapple, pomegranate, cherries, peaches, and so on, signify differing Christian connotations of Elysium, restrictions, and salvation. Similarly, the musical instruments emphasize the vanity, leisure, bliss, and abundance in life. Jan de Heem’s focus on the goodness of living, blended with the moral significance makes his work equally sought-after today, as they were those times of artistic extravaganza.

Mildred K. Pearson

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