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Luis Meléndez (Naples 1716-1780 Madrid)
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price plus bu… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION (lots 58, 76, 86, 88, 94, 95)
Luis Meléndez (Naples 1716-1780 Madrid)

An earthenware pitcher with pears and plums on a wooden table ledge

Luis Meléndez (Naples 1716-1780 Madrid)
An earthenware pitcher with pears and plums on a wooden table ledge
signed with initials 'L. M.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
16½ x 14¼ in. (42 x 36 cm.)
Private collection, Spain (?), before circa 1885 and thence by descent until
Anon. Sale [The Property of a Gentleman], Sotheby's, London, 6 April 1977, lot 18 (sold £36,000).
Private collection, England.
with David Koetser, Zurich, from whom acquired in 1980 by the family of the present owner and thence by descent.
Apollo, 105, no. 181, March 1977, p. 126, illustration in advertisement.
'Bibliografía. Mercado de Arte', Archivo Español de Arte, 198 April-June 1977, p. 239 and fig. 16.
L. Seghers, 'Mercado de las artes en le extranjeo', Goya, 138, May-June 1977, p. 399 and fig. 19.
F. Davis, 'Talking about Salerooms', Country Life, 162, 10 November 1977, p. 1366, illustrated.
E. Tufts, Luis Meléndez Eighteenth-century Master of the Spanish Still Life, Columbia, 1985, p. 110, no. 94, pl. 94, not seen in person by the author.
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Lot Essay

We are grateful to Dr. Peter Cherry for confirming the attribution having examined the picture in the original. He will include the picture in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's oeuvre.

Son and pupil of the portrait miniaturist Francisco Antonio Meléndez, Luis was born in Naples, but moved to Madrid where he was to become assistant to Louis-Michel van Loo, court painter to King Philip V, and to be one of the first students to be accepted into the new, provisional Accademia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. After another stay in Naples, he returned to Madrid to assist on a commission to paint choir-books for the new Royal Chapel. It was in the 1760s that Luis became a specialist in painting still lifes, of which about one hundred survive. Forty-five of these used to decorate the walls of the Palacio Real in Aranjuez, the King's summer residence outside Madrid.

Employing a style that looked to both Neapolitan still life painting and the work of the seventeenth-century Spanish pioneers in the genre, such as Francisco de Zurbarán and Juan Sánchez Cotán, Meléndez emphasised in his work the solidity and texture of the fruit, vegetables and objects that he chose to depict, usually setting his compositions against a dark or neutral background and modelled by a strong, almost Caravaggesque, light. In this he differs from the other great European artist of the time specialising in still life, Chardin, who concentrated more on the decorative surface of a picture, employing a lighter and wider range of palette.

Dating it to the 1760s, Tufts (loc. cit.), who had not seen the present picture when she included it under 'authentic works' in her 1985 catalogue raisonné stated that 'the compelling aspects of this still life argue for its tentative inclusion among the authentic works of Meléndez...the pears are rendered with Meléndez's characteristic fidelity, and the wooden grain of the table (along with a knot at the right) is sharply depicted...' She goes on to point to the rarity in the artist's oeuvre of the pitcher included in this picture and the work's unusual dimensions. Nevertheless, the highly refined treatment of surface textures, the characteristic earthy colouring and impressive solidity of form help betray the high quality of this work and combine with Dr. Cherry's recent endorsement of the attribution to preclude any doubt as to its authorship.

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