The practice of painting a variant of a work from the Prince of Asturias ‘master series’ is not uncommon in Meléndez’s work, as demonstrated by the existence of a number of other such examples, including the artist’s Still Life of Bream with Oranges and Still Life with Partridges, both in the Masaveu Collection that each derive from paintings from the royal series today in the Prado.1
Technical analysis carried out to the present work prior to its inclusion in the 2009/10 Meléndez exhibition revealed that, in keeping with other pictures in the artist’s oeuvre, the canvas was prepared with a double priming, each layer of a slightly different reddish hue and the top one made up of finer particles. The artist seems to have painted the still life elements first, leaving the background in reserve, as attested by areas of ground that can be seen around the contours of some of the fruit. A lighter, more greyish colour was then applied over the darker background to create a variable atmospheric effect. As pointed out by Dr. Peter Cherry, Meléndez almost certainly painted the present work in 1773, whilst the royal picture was still in his studio, although the tonality of the background may have been altered later.
The Rosendo Naseiro Collection
During the second half of the 20th century, Rosendo Naseiro, in whose ownership the present work has been for some thirty years, assembled one of the greatest private collections of Spanish still life painting ever known. The collection was remarkable both for its outstanding quality but also its encyclopaedic range, covering from the dawn of Spanish still life painting around 1600 until the late 19th century. The particular focus of the collection was still life painting from the Spanish Golden Age and this period was represented by a number of masterpieces by artists including Juan van der Hamen, Juan Fernández, called El Labrador, Juan de Espinosa, Juan de Arellano, Tomás Hiepes and Pedro de Camprobín. In 2006 a group of forty works from the Naseiro Collection was acquired for the Prado and substantially enriched the museum’s existing still life collection. The jewel in the crown was Juan van der Hamen’s celebrated Still Life with Artichokes, Flowers and Glassware (see Fig. 2) and the group also included an outstanding work by Luis Meléndez, of similar size to the present work, representing A Bowl of Blackberries in a Landscape (see Fig. 3).
1. See the exhibition catalogue, Luis Meléndez, Bodegones, Madrid, Museo del Prado, 17 February – 16 April 2004, p. 231, cat. no. 39, reproduced p. 233 & p. 219, cat. no. 33, reproduced p. 221.
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