Antonio Ponce was born in Valladolid and raised in Madrid where he began his career as a painter. Married to the niece of the great still life painter Juan van der Hamen y León, Ponce’s early style owed much to his uncle by marriage, utilising the dark backgrounds and ordered, symmetrical compositions which had been frequently favoured by the earlier generation of still life painters in Spain. As his career progressed, however, he began to develop his own more distinct artistic identity and style, lightening the backgrounds of his paintings to allow for a more subtle rendering of light and shade, and arranging his compositions in a less formal way.
Signed ‘Anto Ponce / fe’, this work dates from the 1640s or1650s when Ponce’s work increasingly became characterised by these lightened backgrounds and less regimented designs, often featuring baskets of fruit. To the left of the composition stands a round glass vase filled with sunflowers, morning glory and daffodils. To the right is a large white porcelain bowl, decorated with blue semi-circles, and filled with peaches, pomegranates, grapes and fresh dates. Between these lie two pomegranates, one of which is split open, and a large quince. Characteristically, each element is treated with particular care and a luminosity and clarity of style which exemplifies Ponce’s works of this period. The open pomegranate, its seeds and pith spilling out onto the stone shelf, is especially precisely rendered, perfectly demonstrating the painter’s observational and technical skills. A similar arrangement of fruit is found in a small canvas in the Prado, Madrid (fig.1), where once again Ponce painted both open and closed pomegranates on a stone ledge, carefully replicating their smooth exterior and complex interior structure in a clear and careful manner.