Director Emeritus Grant Holcomb speaks about this object.
De Heem's still-life is a visual feast, and fully represents the very best of this 17th century tradition in Dutch painting.
Here the most humble object, whether orange or oyster, grape or goblet, is given a clarity, precision and, if you will, a transcendent quality due to the technical virtuosity of the artist. De Heem's mastery of texture is evident throughout the composition: marble, satin, shell, hemp, glass and silver are but a few of the materials rendered with such life-like effect. The grapes seem edible, the oysters succulent and the wine ready to drink in this picture of pleasure and delight.
The artist may be reflected in the goblet, a minute touch of paint amidst this feast. And yet, for many this is an allegorical painting that bespeaks the lessons of good and evil, moderation and intemperance, where a reptile may refer to the fall of man, wine and bread remain Christian symbols of redemption, and where the smoldering wick may symbolize the brevity of life, and the oyster man's carnal nature, the pansy and the laurel leaf signify spiritual triumph over all earthly delights.
This is truly a wonderful painting that, through its textural richness, orchestration of color, harmonious fall of light and varied interpretations deserves our full attention.
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