Lot 38
  • 38

FRANCISCO BARRERA | Allegory of winter with slaughtered pig, dried meats, fish, poultry, a meat pastry, ceramic vessels, and a brazier

80,000 - 120,000 USD
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  • Francisco Barrera
  • Allegory of winter with slaughtered pig, dried meats, fish, poultry, a meat pastry, ceramic vessels, and a brazier
  • signed in the lower center, on a label placed on the bread dough: barrera
  • oil on canvas
  • 40 by 61 in.; 101.6 by 154.9 cm.


Private collection, Belgium;
From whence acquired circa 1998.


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 work is in good condition. It has not been recently cleaned and is noticeably dirty. There is a small cleaning test in the sky on the upper left edge. There is a good varnish on the surface, which allows one to see the composition. The work is painted onto a fairly heavy piece of linen, which seems to have a very old lining. The surface is quite rough, but it is not unattractive for a painting of this kind. The paint layer is stable, and the texture of the impasto is still very lively. There is a vertical damage running through both ankles of the legs of the boar in the upper left into the neck of the beast. This is the only area of real restoration to the work. The surface is slightly uneven here, but this can be corrected without changing the lining. The work is in good condition overall, and it would respond very well to restoration.
"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

Francisco Barrera, most likely a pupil of Juan van der Hamen (1596 - 1631), was relatively unknown after his death but enjoyed status in the Madrid art community during his career as a painter of still lifes and religious scenes. His most successful works were a series of four large still lifes representing the seasons, now in a private collection in Seville. Many elements from the Winter canvas of that series  are repeated here: the butchered pig with a bared tooth, the mortar and pestle, the stove over the burning brazier, and the sausages and ribs displayed behind the table. Furthermore, Barrera signed this painting in a way identical to his signature in other food still lifes: on the crust of the meat pie on the table, and with a curved line crossing over his name. This impressive winter still life is likely one from a series representing the twelve months, of which only six have been identified thus far. February in the collection of the Museo del Prado, Madrid (fig. 1), has the same compositional formula: a stone ledge laid with naturalistic foodstuffs and a small window looking out onto a seasonal landscape in the background. Although the present painting lacks the inscribed month (likely December or January), as seen in the Prado’s painting and in other extant examples, the canvasses have virtually identical dimensions. It is not known whether these paintings were made as a single commission, but that seems unlikely given their large size. Barrera may have capitalized on the popularity of seasonal still lifes and expanded the series to sell to more patrons.

Barrera's winter still life provides a glimpse into the 17th-century Spanish traditions, allowing the viewer to imagine the hearty feast to come from the display. At the same time the many thematic contrasts call to mind broader moral themes often associated with still lifes. The surfeit of food represents wealth and temporary pleasure while the spare hut in the bitterly cold landscape seen through the window signifies poverty and worldly suffering. The promise of nourishment from the meat refers to life and vitality while the slaughtered hog forces the viewer to confront death. 

Barrera's familiar subject matter of a pig or hog contains myriad literary and historical references, both positive and negative, that require the viewer's interpretation. In this way, the early modern composition also resonates with contemporary art. Damien Hirst's This little piggy went to market (fig. 2) echoes and expands upon the directness of Barrera's life-size work of realism. Both of the confrontational works invite the viewer to reflect on the gruesomeness of life and finality of death.