Lot 41
  • 41

Diego Rivera (1886-1957)

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • Diego Rivera
  • Naturaleza muerta con limones
  • signed and dated Paris 1916 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 11 1/4 by 15 in.
  • 28.6 by 38.1 cm


Acquired from the artist
Estate of Emile Delobre, Alforteville (1964)
Newton McMahan, New York (1964)
Lerner-Heller, Gallery New York (1974)
Private Collection, Caracas
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, Latin American Art, November 20, 2000, lot 28, illustrated in color
New York Private Collector


Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, March 9-April 29, 1984; New York, IBM Gallery of Science and Art, June 13-August 8, 1984; San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, September 27-November 11, 1984, Diego Rivera: The Cubist Years, no. 52, p. 118, illustrated


Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Diego Rivera, Catálogo general de obra de caballete, Mexico City, 1989, no. 171, p. 30, illustrated


This oil on canvas has been reinforced around the edges, but is unlined nonetheless. The canvas is still slightly uneven, but the impasto is good and the paint layer is stable. The work is varnished and may be slightly dirty in places, but this conservative cleaning is welcome in this case. The varnish may be a little shiny, but the condition of the painting is certainly very good. No retouches are visible under ultraviolet light, except for possibly a few spots in the black section in the upper center. (This condition report has been provided courtesy of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.)
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

It was after 1911 that Diego Rivera decided to explore the European vanguard in depth, after experimenting with the pointilist technique of Georges Seurat.  In Paris, he felt attracted to the multi-layered compositions of Robert Delaunay, incorporating the same orphic movement into some of the pieces Rivera presented at the Salon D’Automne the following year. 

In Spain, Rivera began abstracting in geometric volumes the accidental topography around the City of Toledo, and, under the influence of the mannerist style of El Greco, Rivera devoted himself to Cubism in 1913.  His cubism did not derive from Picasso or Braque, it was the result of his own plastic conclusions in the quest for a fourth dimension in painting. His multiple formal proposals were well greeted by critics like Guillaume Apollinaire, André Salmon and Ramón Gómez de la Serna, aesthetes of the Cubist movement.  As a result, he was granted a well-deserved contract with the marchand d’art Léonce Rosenberg and several exhibitions in the gallery directed by Marius de Zayas in New York. Thus, Rivera’s cubism reached an international importance in 1916. Rivera’s cubist experiments between 1916 and 1917 are marked by a real desire to find a new classic order, developing a more aesthetic and therefore more pure cubism, which some critics like Maurice Raynal called “Crystal Cubism” for its lack of decorative elements. 

In the present Still Life, signed and dated on the reverse, Rivera explores a centripetal composition, in which the objects represented within turn in the space creating fields of color on positive and negative backgrounds, making the fruit basket, the lemons and even a slice of Brie cheese, look as if they were suspended in a vortex of time, in the conjunction of a new plastic dimension.  

Rivera was fascinated by the possibilities of the construction of the composition provided by the behavior of color and by the perception of the painting as a mathematical exercise.  The following year, he began a journey with no return as a cubist artist as he explored the oeuvre of Paul Cézanne, and the theoretical movement of the painters called Les Constructeurs.

Professor Luis-Martín Lozano, March 2014