Long overshadowed by his more famous father, Francisco, Juan de Zurbarán is one of the greatest still life painters of 17th-century Spain and one of his works has just gone on display at London’s National Gallery following a private sale negotiated by Sotheby’s.
The artist’s works are extremely rare: barely a dozen paintings survive, all of them still lifes. Having trained with his father in Seville, Juan’s career was cruelly cut short in 1649 by the plague that halved the city´s population. He was just 29 years old.
In this monumental canvas, Still Life with Lemons in a Wicker Basket, gorgeous outsize lemons fill the basket and sprigs of red lilies, blue delphiniums, red carnations and a delicate lemon blossom lean out from among them. A goldfinch perches on the lip of a Chinese import ceramic bowl filled with water. Previously unknown and unpublished, this work was recently discovered in a Spanish private collection by Sotheby's.
The National Gallery is fortunate to have one of the strongest collections of Spanish Golden Age paintings in the world. This exceptional acquisition not only enables the Gallery to tell a much richer story about the development of Spanish still life painting, but also reunites the work of father and son.
Speaking about the work, James Macdonald, Worldwide Head of Private Sales, Old Masters said: “Although one of the greatest still life painters of the Spanish Golden Age, Juan de Zurbarán – son of the great Francisco - has held something of a mythical status. This recently discovered masterpiece reveals an artist of supreme talent and ability and Sotheby’s is delighted to have negotiated a successful private sale to the National Gallery in London, whose outstanding collection of Spanish Golden Age painting will provide the ideal context for the painting and serve to promote further the great riches of Spanish painting and culture to a truly global audience.”
Still Life with Lemons in a Wicker Basket has been acquired thanks to the support of individuals who have given money through the National Gallery Trust, a charity which exists to further the aims of the Gallery, and the American Friends of the National Gallery.
The painting can now be seen in Room 30 alongside masterpieces of Spanish 17th-century painting by Velázquez, Zurbarán and Murillo. Wineglasses is on display in Room 44, together with works by Monet, Renoir and other Impressionists.