Pieter Claesz

Still Life with a Skull and a Writing Quill

Oil on wood, 24.1 x 35.9 cm.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
pieter Claez

CLAESZ, Pieter
(c. 1597–1 January, 1660)
Claesz was born in Berchem, Belgium, near Antwerp, where he became a member of the Guild of Saint Luke in 1620. He moved to Haarlem in 1621, where his son, the landscape painter Nicolaes Pieterszoon Berchem was born. He and Willem Claeszoon Heda, who also worked in Haarlem, were the most important exponents of the "ontbijt" or dinner piece. They painted with subdued, virtually monochromatic palettes, the subtle handling of light and texture being the prime means of expression. Claesz generally chose objects of a more homely kind than Heda, although his later work became more colourful and decorative. Claesz's still lifes often suggest allegorical purpose, with skulls serving as reminders of human mortality. The two men founded a distinguished tradition of still life painting in Haarlem. Pieter Claesz was influenced by the artist movement 'Vanitas'.