, ,


Spanish School, First Half of the 17th Century, Still life with quinces and pears arranged on a stone table top. Photo Sotheby’s.

oil on canvas; 19 1/2  by 29 1/4  in.; 49.4 by 74.2 cm. Estimation 70,000 — 90,000 USD

PROVENANCE: Anonymous sale (‘Property from a Spanish collection’), London, Sotheby’s, 4 December 2013, lot 10, where acquired by the previous owner for £190,000.

NOTES: It is perhaps surprising that the authorship of this highly original and distinctive still life continues to elude scholars. When acquired by the present owner in around 2000 the picture was given to the enigmatic figure of Francisco de Burgos Mantilla, by whom only one signed work is known, A Still life with Dried Fruit, today in the Yale University Art Gallery.1 Yet whilst the Yale picture is characterised by a softness to the modelling and diffused lighting, closely associated with the work of Velázquez, the present picture is firmly rooted in the tradition of Caravaggio, with strong geometric forms starkly lit by dramatic light falling across the scene from left to right, defining the shapes and surface texture of the fruit to create a heightened sense of realism.

One of the most striking aspects of the picture is the unusually narrow palette employed by the artist, which accentuates further the role of the lighting within the scene and in this respect shares close affinities with the still lifes produced in Seville by Francisco de Zurbarán, and especially his son Juan. The restricted palette and dramatic use of light can be compared directly, for example, to Juan de Zurbarán’s Still Life of Quinces, Grapes, Figs and Plums today in a private collection, Paris, yet whilst the latter’s still lifes are observed directly from the front, here the artist has adopted a high viewpoint and shows the objects arranged on a table top tilted forwards, much in the Flemish tradition of the likes of Osaias Beert.2

Although no still lifes by Caravaggio are known to have arrived in Spain, the artist’s innovative style was introduced there early on through the work of his close followers, such as Luca Forte (many of whose still lifes are recorded in contemporary Spanish collections of the day), and Giovanni Battista Crescenzi, Marquis de la Torre, a patron and artist in his own right who actively promoted the style of Caravaggio following his arrival in Spain.

1. See W.B. Jordan, Spanish Still Life in the Golden Age, exhibition catalogue, Fort Worth 1985, pp.198-199, reproduced plate 36.
2. See O. Delenda, Francisco de Zurbarán, vol. II, Madrid 2010, p. 280, cat. no. JX-9, reproduced.

Sotheby’s. Master Paintings and Sculpture: Part II. New York | 29 janv. 2015, 03:00 PM