Zurbaran is thought to have painted very few still life paintings. According to some scholars only two have survived: the one described here and the one now in Los Angeles (Norton Simon Foundation, formerly in the Contini Bonacossi Collection, Florence) reproduced painting Still life with Lemons Oranges and Rose. The latter is signed and dated 1633 and attracted the interest of the great 20th-century art historian Roberto Longhi, who wrote "instead of light that circulates, a dark and abstract background; the objects not set haphazardly on the table of the tavern, but devoutly lined up, like flowers on the altar, strung out in a row like the litanies of the Virgin." These words also apply perfectly to the simple but fascinating composition in the Prado, datable to the same period or slightly earlier. The style seems to have been influenced by the still life painting works of Juan van der Hamen y Leon, an artist of Flemish origin who was much appreciated in Spain at the time for his still lifes. An exact replica of this painting used to be in the Cambe Collection in Madrid, but is attributed to Francisco's son Juan.
Articles of everyday use like the ones in this canvas can often be found in Zurbaran's large religious pictures as well, and there too are painted with such care and intensity that they can be regarded as still lies in themselves. This is the case, for example, with the Childhood of the Virgin (collegiate church, Jerez) and the Christ and the Virgin in the House at Nazareth (The House of Nazareth) (Museum of Art, Cleveland).
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