Amelia Peláez (1897-1968)
Amelia Peláez (1897-1968)

Naturaleza muerta en un interior (also known as Las puertas de La Habana)

Amelia Peláez (1897-1968)
Naturaleza muerta en un interior (also known as Las puertas de La Habana)
signed and dated 'A PELÁEZ 1948' (upper right)
oil on paper laid down on panel
30 ¼ x 38 in. (76.8 x 96.5 cm.)
Painted in 1948.
Property of the Estate of H.R. Hays, New York; Sotheby's, New York, 10 June 1982 (illustrated in color and on the cover, and acquired directly from the artist in Havana, 1948).
Cernuda Arte, Coral Gables.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.

F. R. Padro´n, et al., Cuban Art: Remembering Cuba through its Art, Private Collections in Exile, Volume 1, Miami, Arte al Di´a Internacional, American Art Corporation, and Padrón Publications, 2004, p. 118 (illustrated in color).
M. E. Jubrías, Amelia Peláez, Cerámica, Havana, Ediciones Vanguardia Cubana, 2008, p. 21 (illustrated in color).
Miami, Pérez Art Museum Miami, Amelia Peláez: The Craft of Modernity, 4 December 2013 – 23 February 2014, pp. 94-95 (illustrated in color).
New York, Galerie Lelong, Diálogos constructivistas en la vanguardia cubana: Amelia Peláez, Loló Soldevilla & Zilia Sánchez, 28 April- 25 June 2016, p. 33 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

We are grateful to Fundación Arte Cubano for their assistance cataloguing this work.

Possessing the spiritual glow of a stained glass window in a cathedral, Naturaleza muerta en un interior is superlative example of the Cuban artist Amelia Peláez’s sacralization of the everyday. Although a purely secular vision, the way the colors are placed within casements of black and then overlaid with delicate curvilinear details, make the scene reminiscent of a detail from the Last Supper. Likewise the selection of colors - the red of the Passion, the yellow of divine light and the vibrant green of Nature’s indomitable spirit of renewal - all mingle to endow this domestic still life with a quasi-supernatural feeling. This is the magic of Amelia Peláez, a shy and retiring woman whose loving vision of her limited bourgeois surroundings transcendently defined a particular aspect of Cuban identity.

The end of World War II allowed the artist greater freedom of travel and in 1948 when this painting was completed, Peláez had vacationed in Europe with her friends and family. It is interesting to note that although she had visited Spain, France, and Italy and some of the great museums that they contained and that she had visited earlier as a student, these sights are not what are captured in this work. For Peláez inspiration came from her home in Cuba, and although her journeys may have given her renewed energy and stimulus to create, her essential vision remained unchanged. Here is the lacey tablecloth, the decorated ceramic bowl, and the tantalizing plate of fried fish – emblems used by the artist over and over to describe an earthly paradise of artfully set tables and regularly served meals.

What makes this particular painting so special is the inclusion of two architectural columns that are clearly taken from her home in the La Víbora district of Havana. Photographs reveal that on both the outside front porch and the interior dining room of her home were slender columns topped with decorative carved capitals. These columns are visible here in their stately elegance, and serve to anchor the exuberant curvilinear details of the still life elements into a stable whole. What is so utterly delightful is the play on interior and exterior. Are we looking from the dining room table out through the typical Cuban stained-glass fanlights onto the porch with its marble columns? Or, are we looking into the private living space of the artist, who we know lived a cloistered but content life with her female family members. The answer is undoubtedly, both because the great victory of Peláez’s artistic vision is that she managed to make the humble particulars of her daily life appear heroic and universal.

Susan L. Aberth, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York


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