HEDA, Willem Claesz.
(b. 1594, Haarlem, d. 1680, Haarlem)

Breakfast of Crab

Oil on canvas, 118 x 118 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Around 1600 Dutch painting takes a decisive step, as still-life breaks away definitively from its context in history painting and develops into a complex genre of its own. Pieter Claesz had a great influence on still-life painting in Haarlem. The so-called 'breakfast' or 'banquet' pieces of the Haarlem school are characterised by their focus on a few objects representing a meal. This portrait of dumb, inanimate objects is asymmetrically arranged and its colour tends towards the monochrome. The foreshortening and overlapping of objects ties them into a subtle network of mutual relations. The tendency towards unity of atmosphere and colour that develops in the 1620s is manifested here in the generally grey-brown tone of the whole painting, which unites the individual objects into a whole, counterpointed by the local colour of the lemon and the little loaf of bread. Alongside these subtle nuances of colour is a play of light that both emphasises the modelling of the surfaces and introduces accents of light and shade.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.