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Juan Sánchez Cotán (1560-1627)

April 19, 2011

Still Life with Quince, Cabbace, Melon, and Cucumber

Sanchez Cortan 1602-1603.

Oil on canvas.

Fine Arts Gallery, San Diego, California.

This still life is considered to be the Spanish artist Juan Sanchez Cotan’s masterpiece.  He painted many still-life scenes similar to this one, in fact.  Each included various fruits and vegetables, separated from one another, againsts a black background.  This was to evoke a meditation on each item in the composition, similar to the contemplation recommended by St. Ignatius Loyola in his Spritial Exercises (Tomlinson 58).  Indeed, Cotan was a pious man and has been reputed to have given up his possessions to live in a Carthusian monastery after painting this (San Diego Museum of Art).

Still-life paintings were popular in Spain during the Baroque (as did they gain popularity in Italy, as well).  This particular piece was exuctued during the time of Caravaggio’s early works including his extremely naturalistic still-life paintings.  Life the great Italian master, Cotan’s compostion features a cucumber that teeters on the edge of its platform.  It extends into the viewers space and creates tension.  Each item in this still-life is distinctly rendered, catching the attention of the viewer equally.  The vegetables are arranged in a mathematical curve within the frame.

Tomlinson, Janis. From El Greco to Goya: Painting in Spain 1561-1828. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1997.

San Diego Museum of Art. “25 Works of Art You Must See.” <;

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