We are grateful to Professor A. Pérez Sánchez, Dr. William B. Jordan and Dr. Peter Cherry for confirming the attribution having examined this picture and its pendant (the next lot) in the original. Dr. Cherry will include the pictures in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.
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.
In their exhibition catalogue, Jordan and Cherry write that Meléndez 'made use of things he owned, often repeating these objects in different contexts' (catalogue of the exhibition, Spanish Still Life from Velázquez to Goya, the National Gallery, London, 1995, pp. 156-7). Thus, for example, in this lot, the dish on which the pears are placed is repeated in other compositions such as the Still life of melon, pomegranates and apples, dated by Tufts to circa 1771, and the ceramic jar in the next lot is seen again in the Plums, figs, bread and other kitchenware, in the Prado, Madrid, and dated by Tufts to the 1760s (see E. Tufts, Luis Meléndez, Columbia, 1985, p. 181, pl. 74, and p. 161, pl. 18).