HEUSSEN, Claes van
(b. 1599, Haarlem, d. after 1631, Haarlem)

Fruit and Vegetable Seller

Oil on canvas, 157 x 200 cm
Private collection

This colossal still-life is signed and dated 1630 by Claes (Nicolaes) van Heussen, a Haarlem specialist of the genre. Details regarding his life are sparse and only a handful of his works have been identified. They are variously signed (C.v. Heussen and C.V. Heus) and are dated between 1626 and 1631. He won enough local fame in his own day for Samuel Ampzing to make a passing reference to him in his history of Haarlem, published in 1628.

To judge from his surviving works van Heussen was inspired by the huge, abundant displays of fruits and vegetables favoured by Flemish artists and by their followers in the Northern Netherlands. Apparently he did not attempt the unpretentious, monochromatic still-lifes that Pieter Claesz and Willem Claesz Heda were painting at this very time in Haarlem, today prized as Holland's unique contribution to the subject. Like so many exuberant Flemish still-life specialists, he felt compelled to animate his still-lifes with some live action and, as they often did, he called upon a figure painter to do the job. In this painting, Frans Hals painted the coquettish young woman who has turned momentarily to look at the viewer as she reaches into a basket.