About David Cornelisz. de Heem
Antwerp 1663 – before 1714 The Hague
Painter of still lifes of flowers and fruit.
Member of an important dynasty of still life painters who were active in Flanders and in Holland.
David was the grandson of Jan Davidsz. de Heem (Utrecht 1603 – 1683/84 Antwerp), one of the most, if not the most important 17th century Dutch still life. Jan’s father was a Flemish musician from Antwerp, who had settled in Utrecht, probably because he was a Protestant.
David was the son of Cornelis de Heem (Leiden 1631 – 1695 Antwerp) and Catharina Pauwens. David’s second first name, Cornelisz., stands for and should be read as “Cornelis’ zoon”, “son of Cornelis”.
In 1667, at the age of four, David moved with his parents and his younger sister from Antwerp in Flanders to Holland, to Utrecht, where they stayed for six months with Cornelis’ father, Jan. It is not known where Cornelis and his family went to live afterwards. Later, in 1676 they first moved to IJsselsteijn (SW of Utrecht) and the same year to The Hague.
From circa 1676 until 1690 David and his father Cornelis must have shared a studio at The Hague. According to Fred Meijer from the RKD (the Dutch State Documentation Centre for Art Historical Studies) in The Hague, it may well be that at that time Cornelis also signed the more successful products of his son who, as a gezel in his father’s studio, was not yet allowed to sign his paintings himself. Examples of such works by David that were signed by Cornelis were sold in the November 2010 sales at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s (see our comparative works).
David de Heem’s style and in fact with a few exceptions his still lifes are modelled on examples by his father, Cornelis. More often than Cornelis, David used a fairly even, dark background, thus creating a dramatic effect. David never dated his paintings, Cornelis very rarely.
David married in 1690 at The Hague.
In the year 1693/1694 he joined the Painter’s Guild of Antwerp. It is uncertain if our painter had actually moved back to his birthplace Antwerp for a short while or if he had joined the guild to gain permission to sell his and his father’s paintings there, while he was still living at The Hague. In 1697 and in 1700 two of his sons were baptised at The Hague. But in 1713 his eldest son Gerard was confirmed in Antwerp; did David return to Antwerp some time before that date?