Still-life with Fruit and Butterflies, 1652
Jan Davidsz. de Heem
Dutch, 1606 - 1684
oil on oak
32.8 x 48.8 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 28140)
The artist makes us pause and examine the commonplace. We sense the passage of time, of the activity that has preceded and will follow: the fruit has grown to ripeness, been gathered and piled up together for consumption. A cherry is rotting; a lemon, used and now set aside, has discoloured. The inevitable decay offers a warning, reminding us of our own mortality - yet the work also celebrates nature's bounty and man's skill. It also comments on art itself, contrasting Davidsz.'s remarkable illusionism with the stylized fruits and flowers painted on the prized Chinese bowl.
Marks and Labels
– Signed, upper right: J D heem/ fecit
– On verso: Incised VH in ligature, presumably by the panel-maker
Joseph van Haecken
– Stencilled black paint “CP462”:
– In white chalk: “CP462”(1) , “colour good” , “lot 40” “25-4-82”
M.G. Baronesse van Brakell, Amsterdam (?) 
Dr. James Simon (1851–1932) Berlin, Germany; his family, by inheritance 
In auction of “Important Old Master Pictures.” Christie's, London, April 23, 1982, lot 40 
1982/04/23 – 1982/12/23
Rosenberg & Stiebel Inc., New York, United States, purchased from Christie's, London 
National Gallery of Canada, purchased from Rosenberg & Stiebel 
 A painting described as: “Op eene Tafel staat een porseleinen kom met druiven, perziken, pruimen, kerssen, bessen enz., voorts eenig bijwerk; meesterlijk en delicaat gepenceeld, door J. D. e Heem, P., h.3 p. 4 d, br. 4 p. 9 d.' ('On a table stands a porcelain bowl containing grapes, peaches, plums, cherries, berries etc., plus some additional items; masterly and delicately painted, by J.D. de Heem' measurements most likely translate to 34 x 49 cm) was sold from the collection of the Baronesse van Brakell at De Vries, Amsterdam, on December 14, 1829, as lot 22 (note: “sold 10.10 guilders to Engelberts”) [information kindly provided by Fred G. Meijer, Curator, Dept. of Old Netherlandish Painting, Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, in an email dated Sept.4, 2008, NGC curatorial file].
 Industrialist James Simon was a Berlin philanthropist and patron of the arts. He gave a large number of old master paintings to the Kaiser Friedrich Museum and is best known for donating the iconic bust of Queen Nefertiti to the city's Egyptian Museum. See note .
 The still-life was offered for sale by Christie's London in 1982 and sold to New York art dealers Rosenberg & Stiebel. The sales catalogue provides the following provenance information: “Simon collection, Berlin, thence by descent”. In his justification for acquisition, NGC research curator Myron Laskin Jr. indentifies the former owner as German-Jewish collector James Simon. [Accession records, NGC curatorial file]. See note .
 The National Gallery of Canada purchased the painting from Rosenberg & Stiebel on December 23, 1982 [NGC curatorial file].Research in progress