Still Life with a Nautilus Cup

Image credit: The Henry Barber Trust, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham

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The objects are arranged to demonstrate the artist’s skill in showing the play of light on different materials. The focus is a precious drinking cup made from a nautilus shell. Around it, in a carefully planned disorder, are silver vessels which set up a series of complex reflections. These hard forms are contrasted with the different textures of a bunch of grapes, walnuts and a lemon – cut and peeled. De Heem achieved his astonishing illusion with only a few colours.

Still Life with a Nautilus Cup




oil on wood


H 77.5 x W 64.7 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

purchased, 1941

Work type


Inscription description

Signed and dated: JDHeem f./ JDHeem f. Ao 1632 [both sets of initials in monogram]


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Normally on display at

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts

University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, West Midlands B15 2TS England

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