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Kitchen Still Life
Master S. B.
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Master S. B.

1633, 1655

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Kitchen Still Life

1637 - 1642. Oil on canvas. Not on display

This splendid painting, which came from the Buen Retiro Palace, Madrid (where it was cited in a 1794 inventory), was until recently attributed to Giovanni Battista Ruoppolo (1626-1693), based on the hypothesis proposed by Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez in 1967. Now, however, it represents one of the most important recent additions to the corpus of known works by the mysterious Master S.B., the still-unknown artist most likely active in Naples and Rome between 1633 and 1655, as suggested by the legible dates on a painting sold at Christie’s in Mallorca in May 1999, and on a canvas formerly at the Canelli Gallery, Milan.

The pseudonym Master S.B. was coined by Giuseppe De Vito in his 1990 essay Un diverso avvio per il primo tempo della natura morta a Napoli (A fresh start for the first phase of stilllife painting in Naples). His examination was aimed at reconstructing the activity of the major Neapolitan still-life painters in the first half of the seventeenth century, and to strike from the Luca Forte catalogue a canvas in the Lodi collection ascribed to him by Luigi Salerno in 1984.

In his study, De Vito noted the presence of the monogram SB on one of the two paintings in the Canelli Gallery, presented at the Florence Biennale of Antiques in 1985 as works by Forte.

De Vito’s theory found critical favour and separated the newly discovered anonymous artist from the work of Forte, noting their shared characteristics and points of divergence. Invaluable additions to the extremely small body of autograph works by the Master S.B. in the years since has contributed to an understanding of this painter -who in this writer’s opinion was likely to be Neapolitan, as evidenced by the foodstuffs he regularly chose to paint.

The well-preserved Prado canvas beautifully illustrates the imaginary setup of the majority of still-life paintings by Master S.B. Carefully arranged on descending levels of stone slabs, as if placed in slots, are a variety of foods, straw-covered flasks and terracotta pots. The artist displays a commanding skill in presenting a highly refined and naturalistic pictorial language, with clever use of a piercing light resulting in a Caravaggesque play of chiaroscuro in the foreground and half-tones in the background. Among the leitmotifs of the unmistakable iconographic repertoire of the Master S.B. are the straw-covered flask tied up with string, the salami cut open on the plate to the right (an almost identical feature was found on a painting in the Lechi collection, Brescia, recently attributed to the artist by the present author), and the wedge of cheese resting on the sheet of music, which sits precipitously over the edge of the main stone slab. It is worth noting that in autograph works by the Master S.B. the re-use of particular motifs is not repetitious, because time and again the artist deploys fresh compositional schemes and culinary combinations, always characterised by a surprising air of creativity and invention. In this particular example the element of novelty is provided by two large fowl: a turkey hanging from a nail and a duck placed centrally on the stone table.

The formal and stylistic elements that this painting shares with the canvas in the Lechi collection, as well as with three other newly attributed paintings in the Pinacoteca Mus’a in Sassari (also by the present author), in which we see the reappearance of the traditional Neapolitan pie, the straw-covered flask and the wedge of cheese on the sheet of music, suggests a date of execution at some time during the 1640s (Text drawn from Dotti, D.: Italian Masterpieces. From Spain´s Royal Court, Museo del Prado, 2014, p. 186).

Technical data

Inventory number
Master S. B.
Kitchen Still Life
1637 - 1642
Height: 78 cm.; Width: 151 cm.
Royal Collection

Bibliography +

Pérez Sánchez, A. E., Sobre bodegones italianos, napolitanos especialmente, Archivo español de arte y arqueología, 40, 1967, pp. 321.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura italiana del siglo XVII: exposición conmemorativa del ciento cincuenta aniversario de la fundación del Museo del Prado, Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia, Madrid, 1970, pp. nº160.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Pintura napolitana: de Caravaggio a Giordano, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 290, nº122.

Barghahn, Barbara Von, Philip IV and the Golden House of the Buen Retiro in the Tradition of Caesar, Garland PublishingInc., Nueva York; Londres, 1986, pp. 1981 / lám. 799.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. nº2010.

Dotti, D, Master S.B. 'Kitchen still life' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 186.

Portús, Javier, Velázquez and the Celebration of Painting: The Golden Age in the Museo del Prado, The Yomiuri Shimbun: The National Museum of Western Art, Tokio, 2018, pp. n.47.

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 2010.
Escuela flamenca / 2010. Aves, pasteles, y un queso sobre un papel de música. / Alto 3 pies, 4 pulg; ancho 5 pies, 7 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 1951.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 1990.



Exhibitions +

Velázquez and the Golden Age
16.11.2018 - 03.03.2019

Velázquez and the Celebration of Painting: the Golden Age in the Museo del Prado
13.06.2018 - 14.10.2018

Velázquez and the Celebration of Painting: the Golden Age in the Museo del Prado
24.02.2018 - 27.05.2018

Velázquez and the Celebration of Painting: the Golden Age in the Museo del Prado
20.02.2018 - 27.05.2018

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

Displayed objects +

Music, Unidentified legible: En primer término, folio numerado en recto y verso, lo que significa que posiblemente formaba parte de un libro. Se puede decir que se trata de una pieza vocal por la existencia de un texto bajo la notación. Notas colocadas en un tetragrama y sin indicación de medida (notación mensural característica del siglo XVII). Se alude por un lado al canto en el banquete al representar la partitura con los alimentos; por otro está presente la idea de la "vanitas", característica de la pintura flamenca: la música forma parte de los placeres terrenales y como ellos, es fugaz. La referencia a la música, mediante instrumentos o partituras, en la pintura flamenca del siglo XVII tiene su principal representante en Brueghel (Proyecto Iconografía Musical, U.C.M.). Ruoppolo colaboró con él.

Update date: 12-12-2020 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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