Lot 10
  • 10

Spanish School

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
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  • Spanish School
  • Still life with quinces and pears arranged on a stone table top
  • oil on canvas


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: This painting has had a careful recent lining, which has preserved the texture well, with a loose canvas back cloth. The strong stretcher is comparatively recent and not typically Spanish. The old narrow stretcher bar lines can be seen, with a fairly marked, if even, craquelure within the main painting. This seems to have aged without any sign of intervention over time, although with gradually increasing brittleness. Small flakes were lost along the stretcher bar lines and scattered minute retouched lost flakes are visible under ultra violet light in many places, with a slightly wider cluster of retouched flakes on the table between the fruit at lower right and in the darks above and around the quinces at upper right. A minor little tear has been retouched in the top left corner with small group of retouched flakes at the lower left edge. The restoration has been discreet and uninvasive, preserving the unusual power of the painting to survive seemingly almost undisturbed. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"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

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. 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, no. JX-9, reproduced.