Lot 12
  • 12

Juan de Espinosa

120,000 - 180,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Juan de Espinosa
  • Still life with fruit, sweets, flowers and a winecooler;Still life with fruit, cauliflower, bread and vessels
  • inscribed on the reverse of each canvas lining: V.a V.e
  • a pair, both oil on canvas


Don Francisco Sanz de Cortes, 1st Marquis of Villaverde (1623 – 1686), Zaragoza;

Thence by family descent until acquired by the present owner during the late 1990s.


P. Cherry, Arte y Naturaleza - El Bodegón Español en el Siglo de Oro, Madrid 1998, pp. 211- 213, reproduced in colour, plate LX, nos. 1 and 2 (as attributed to Juan de la Vega Ventura);

P. Cherry, In the Presence of Things: Four Centuries of European Still Life Painting, exhibition catalogue, Lisbon 2010, vol. I, pp. 88-89, nos. 55 & 56, reproduced (as Espinosa).


The following condition report is provided by Hamish Dewar who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Structural Condition The pair of canvasses appear to be unlined and have inscriptions on the reverse. They are evenly and securely stretched onto keyed wooden stretchers. As one would expect with unlined canvases of this period there is an overall pattern of craquelure which is secure and stable and is not visually distracting. Paint Surface The paint surfaces have reasonably even varnish layers and there is slight frame rubbing on the still life with the cauliflower. Inspection under ultraviolet light shows small scattered retouchings on the 'Still Life with Fruit, Cauliflower...'. There are small retouchings on the apricots in the centre of the composition, an area of retouching on the leaf of the cauliflower which measures approximately 3 x 3.5 cm, a very thin line approximately 6 cm in length on one of the peaches in the upper right of the composition and a thin horizontal line approximately 6 cm in length on the grapes in the centre of the composition. On the 'Still Life with Fruit, Sweets, Flowers and a Winecooler' minimal retouchings are visible under ultraviolet light including small retouchings on the jar in the centre of the composition and an area measuring approximately 3 cm in length on the tabletop beneath the artichoke in the lower right of the composition. There are other small scattered retouchings on both compositions and there may be other retouchings beneath the old varnish layers which are not identifiable under ultraviolet light. Summary The paintings would therefore appear to be in very good and stable condition and the only work that might be required is revarnishing to remove the slight frame rubbing.
"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

These impressive still lifes were painted by Juan de Espinosa towards the end of his career. The paintings formed part of a set of four overdoors that belonged to Don Francisco Sanz de Cortes, 1st Marquis of Villaverde, whose initials are brushed on the reverse of the lining canvases (see fig. 1), and the remaining two canvases are today in the Abello Collection, Spain (see figs. 2 & 3). Don Francisco lived in the Aragonese capital, Zaragoza, and besides being a patron of Juan de Espinosa was also nominated executor by the artist on the latter’s deathbed in Zaragoza in 1671.

Espinosa clearly designed the four overdoors in pairs, each work deliberately echoing the arrangement of its counterpart, with all of the compositions anchored either by the vase of flowers in one pair or the bowl of fruit atop a plinth in the other, and yet with a differing array of objects in between. As pointed out by Dr. Peter Cherry, the paintings are characterised by a more ambitious compositional design than the artist’s earlier works to create a highly decorative overall effect that perhaps lack something of the subtlety of his earlier creations, such as his celebrated octagonal Still Life with Grapes, Fruit and a Terracotta Jar, today in the Prado Museum, which is signed and dated 1646 and was likely painted to emulate the still lifes of El Labrador.1 Indeed it appears that Espinosa’s later output produced in Zaragoza was influenced by the abundant compositions of Bernardo Polo. 

The attribution of the present works to Espinosa is today universally accepted by scholars, however at the time of the paintings’ emergence from a private collection in Zaragoza, Dr. Cherry initially proposed an attribution to the little-known still life painter Juan de Vega Ventura on account of the inscription on the reverse of the linings canvases (which coincide with the artist’s initials), whilst at the same time noting the strong stylistic resemblance of the pictures to the work of Espinosa. Although published as such in his still life book Arte y Naturaleza in 1998, Dr. Cherry republished the works with the correct attribution to Espinosa in the exhibition catalogue of the recent still life exhibition held at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon.2


Juan de Espinosa’s works were clearly held in high esteem during his lifetime, for whilst the majority of still lifes recorded within contemporary Spanish inventories are listed anonymously, no less than fifteen fruteros, bodegones and floreros by Espinosa are recorded as having belonged to the collector Don Francisco Merchant de la Zerda.3

1. See P. Cherry, In the Presence of Things: Four Centuries of European Still Life Painting, exhibition catalogue, Lisbon 2010, op. cit., p. 88, no. 53, reproduced.

2. See op. cit., pp. 88-89, nos. 55 & 56, reproduced.

3. W. B. Jordan, Spanish Still Life in the Golden Age: 1600-1650, exhibition catalogue, Fort Worth 1985, p. 168-165.