Lot 115
  • 115

Luis Meléndez

200,000 - 300,000 USD
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  • Luis Meléndez
  • Still Life with Peaches, Pears and Grapes
  • oil on canvas


Private Collection, Spain;
With Derek Johns, Ltd., London;
Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby's, January 27, 2005, lot 197 (unsold at an estimate of $750,000 - 950,000).


Stockholm, National Museum, Fran El Greco till Dali, Dialog med spanskt maleri, February 27 - May 18, 2003.


P. Cherry, Luis Meléndez, Still Life Painter, Madrid 2006, p. 508, reproduced, p. 548, cat. no. 128.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com , an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting is in beautiful condition. The canvas is not lined. The tacking edges are still intact and have been reinforced to allow for proper stretching. The paint layer has been varnished and retouched. It is tempting to think that the painting is still under a layer of dirt, however no damage has ever been done during cleaning and so any further attempts at cleaning should be carefully applied.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This is a relatively early work by the greatest Spanish still life painter of the 18th century, Luis Meléndez. It can be dated circa 1765, when in the absence of continued Royal patronage the artist turned to still life painting in order to make a living. Although an early work, it is painted entirely within the artist's own personal and distinctive style and bears all of the characteristics for which Meléndez is today ranked among the finest still life painters of the 18th century. 

Meléndez's earliest still lifes can be dated circa 1759-60, and their production appears to have been the result of a series of events during the artist's early years. Having trained under his father Francisco Antonio Meléndez (1682 - 1752), Luis became one of the first students to join the Royal Academy of Painting in Madrid, which was founded in 1744 and would later become the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (in 1753). He rapidly excelled in drawing and his prodigious talent is clearly demonstrated in his remarkably assured Self-Portrait of 1746, today in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (see E. Tufts, Luis Meléndez, Columbia 1985, p. 151, reproduced plate 1). Following a quarrel between his father and the director of the Academy, Giovanni Domenico Olivieri, on 15th June 1748 however, Luis was expelled from the Academy and as a result travelled to Rome to complete his artistic training. In 1753 he returned to Madrid to assist in a Royal commission to illuminate a new set of choir books for the Royal Chapel, to replace those lost in the fire of the Alcazar in 1734. On completion of the commission for King Charles III, Meléndez made a number of petitions for further work at the court, but on each occasion was turned down, probably on account of the Royal court's pressing requirement for painters working as large-scale decorators to adorn the walls of the new Palacio Real (such as Corrado Giaquinto), as well as established portrait painters to commemorate the accession of Charles III in 1759. In the absence of further work at court, Meléndez turned to still life painting, his remarkable talent for which had already been alluded to in his exquisite treatment of inanimate objects in his illuminated choir books.

The composition of the present work is dominated by the pile of pears, their volumetric forms rendered with subtle shifts of color and light, which both define the forms of the objects and describe the texture of their surfaces. The artist's fascination with the juxtaposition of textures (reminiscent of the work of the great Diego de Silva y Velazquez) is manifested in the inclusion in the corners of the foreground of the ceramic pot and plum, and the terracotta jug in the left background, which each provide differing surfaces to reveal the full range of the artist's skill and repertoire. The harmonious and balanced coloring of the scene is achieved through the interspersal among the mass of orange peaches of the soft green tones of the pears, which are configured to draw the eye across the entire composition, and thereby animate the scene.