The present still life is notable for its unusually impressive scale as well as its date (1911), being among the artist's earliest cubist compositions, Gris having only recently abandoned his career as an illustrator in order to focus on his painting and the incipient cubist movement in 1910. Befitting its relative size and finish, Nature morte contains the hallmarks of Gris's draftsmanship--namely assured application and carefully appointed objects. In the year following its execution, Gris would exhibit his work at the Salon des Indépendants and began his formal relationship with dealer D.H. Kahnweiler, whose unwavering support--both emotional and financial--would buoy the artist for the rest of his life.
The dedicatee and first owner of the present work was modernist art critic and historian Maurice Raynal, who proved one of Cubism's staunchest defenders and whose portrait (fig. 1)--along with that of his wife, Germaine--Gris would paint around this time (Cooper, nos. 4 and 28). The late owner acquired Nature morte directly from the Raynal descendants in the 1980s.
(fig. 1) Juan Gris, Portrait de Maurice Raynal, 1912.