Luca Forte is regarded as the most important still-life painter active in Naples in the first half of the seventeenth century and is particularly significant for having introduced the naturalism of Caravaggio to this genre. His development was influenced by the work of contemporary still-life painters in Rome, such as Tommaso Salini, Giovanni Battista Crescenzi and Pietro Paolo Bonzi, and by the work of certain Spanish artists, especially Blas de Ledesma and Juan van der Hamen. Little is known about his life, but he is recorded as a witness in 1639 to the marriage contract of the Neapolitan painter Aniello Falcone. Forte must therefore have belonged to the artistic circle around Falcone, whose workshop served as an academy of design as well as a school of life drawing between 1630 and 1640.
The present lot is comparable to the Still life with Tuberose and Crystal Goblet (Palazzo Corsini, Rome - see La natura morta in Italia, Milan, 1989, vol. II, p. 874, no. 1042): the composition is clearly articulated, the light is still, and the chiaroscuro contrasts are marked. The Corsini picture has been convincingly dated to the decade after 1640, and it is reasonable to believe that the present picture belongs to the same period. The same naturalismo caravaggesco is visible in the Still life with apples and pears (Museo Duca di Martina, Naples - see La natura morta in Italia, op. cit., II, p. 873. no. 1040) and in the Still life with fruit and birds (Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota - see ibid., II, p. 876, no. 1046).
We are grateful to Professor Nicola Spinosa for the attribution to Luca Forte after inspecting the original (verbal communication, 10 November 2004).