Previously unpublished, this elaborate still life by the leading flower painter of seventeenth-century Spain is datable on stylistic grounds to the mid-to-late 1660s. A work of the artist’s maturity, it belongs to a group of compositions characterised by a grand profusion of flowers that distinguish themselves from his earlier, more restrained works of the 1650s and early 1660s, which are more indebted to Flemish models. While Arellano signed the vast majority of his compositions, he only dated a small number of them. These belong principally to the last decade of his life and it is by comparison with such works that a date can be established for this impressive painting. Still life with a large array of flowers in a glass vase
compares with one of the most superb examples of Arellano’s art dated 1668 that was sold in 1998 at Sotheby’s, New York, and exhibited in Madrid the same year, Still life of flowers in a glass vase
Of vertical format and nearly identical dimensions, both arrangements are similarly composed in gleaming vases that rest on rough stone plinths. For his grander upright floral pieces Arellano favoured the use of this size and format, which he adopted on numerous occasions. The qualities that mark Arellano’s paintings from this period include the detailed quality of the handling, the configuration of blooms and the use of more intense chiaroscuro
in their lighting. Also in support of a date in the latter half of the 1660s is the style and placement of the signature, which is very similar in this painting to that found on another flower piece by Arellano dated 1665 in a private collection in Madrid.2
These two examples suggest a date between 1665 and 1668 for this Still life
, which in its combination of colours and forms and the subtle reflections of its stemmed vase make it a work of consummate refinement.
We are grateful to William B. Jordan for noting that this is a particularly fine example of Arellano's output from the 1660s and for suggesting that it may have originally been paired with, or been part of a set with, the canvas in a Madrid private collection of roughly the same dimensions (80.5 by 64.5 cm.), which employs the same vase and similar pedestal.3
1 Private collection; oil on canvas, 81.3 by 61 cm.; New York, Sotheby’s, 30 January 1998, lot 112, for $360,000. Madrid, Fundación Caja, Juan de Arellano, A. E. Pérez Sánchez ed., 1998, pp. 188–189, no. 34, reproduced in colour.
2 Madrid 1998, pp. 164–65, no. 22, reproduced in colour.
3 Madrid 1998, pp. 190–91, no. 35, reproduced in colour.