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100 Highlights
of the MFAH
Take a tour through some of the most significant objects in the MFAH collections. On these pages, you can browse 100 highlights from collections throughout the institution. Then visit the Museum in person to discover your own favorites.
Dutch, 1594 - 1680
Banquet Piece with Ham
Oil on canvas

44 x 60 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Raymond H. Goodrich

Arts of Europe

Willem Claesz Heda presents a banquet scene in which carefully arranged food, serving vessels, and utensils have been abruptly abandoned. A symbolic overtone suggests that the enjoyments of life were interrupted, perhaps by death, or forsaken for higher ideals.

This still life demonstrates one of Heda’s specialties. After beginning his career as a figure painter, Heda soon became the leading representative of Dutch still-life painting. He created a genre that he brought to perfection by repeating his compositions, changing only slightly from one to another the arrangement of objects he had chosen to depict. Here, he juxtaposes glassware, silver vessels, and oyster shells on a white tablecloth. Their monochromatic harmony is subtly countered by the pink ham, light-blue decoration of the Delft bowl, and acid-yellow rind of the half-peeled lemon.

Heda’s self-contained painting expresses simultaneously an appetite for worldly goods, so lusciously depicted, and a desire for intellectual rigor, conveyed through an economy of color. Only the light falling through unseen windows, barely reflected in glass and silver and caressing the linen tablecloth and oyster flesh, alludes to a world outside this quiet interior.