Giuseppe Recco was the most celebrated Neapolitan still-life painter of his generation. He was born into a distinguished dynasty of still-life painters that spanned the whole of the 17th century. He is generally thought to be the son of Giacomo and the nephew of Giovan Battista Recco, although Federico Zeri has argued that his father was more likely to be Guglielmo Recco, about whom very little is known (see F. Zeri, La Natura Morta in Italia, Milan, 1989, II, p. 903). If the family relationships are difficult to establish with certainty there is no doubt about their artistic affinities. The Reccos were celebrated for their naturalistic arrangements of fruit, flowers and fish, with Giuseppe considered as the most successful of this group.
While his repertoire was diverse, Giuseppe is perhaps most celebrated for the originality of his fish still-lifes, of which this is a spectacular example. He has signed the picture prominently as 'Eques' (Knight), a prefix that does not appear earlier than in a still-life of 1680 (Pesaro, Pinacoteca Comunale), suggesting that he received the title around this time (De Dominici's assertion that he was knighted in 1667 has been widely discounted). Amongst a small group of late works signed in this way are several of the artist's most celebrated works, including the monumental pair of Flower Vases (one dated 1683), acquired by the 5th Earl of Exeter directly from the artist in 1684 through his agent George Davies (Stamford, Burghley House). Interestingly, Lord Exeter made a further payment to the artist in 1685 for two large fish still-lifes that are recorded at Burghley in an inventory of 1688, but have since disappeared without trace. Another late work, signed with the same prefix, is the Fish Still-Life, dated 1691 (Florence, Uffizi Gallery), which is closely comparable with the present work.