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Still Life with a Chocolate Service
Meléndez, Luis Egidio
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Meléndez, Luis Egidio

Nápoles, 1716 - Madrid, 1780

Still Life with a Chocolate Service

1770. Oil on canvas, 50 x 37 cm.

When describing the work of this prolific painter of still lifes, it is frequently said that Luis Meléndez included only commonplace objects in his canvases; this painting, in fact, offers the exception that proves the rule. Amid the various objects represented here are a porcelain cup and large saucer, or plate, which seem to be East Asian rather than Spanish. Indeed, they may be Cantonese from the Qing dynasty, having arrived in Europe via the Dutch East India Company. The painting also features a chocolate pot, within which the tall handle of the beater marks a vertical line in the composition, while the long handle of the pot itself marks the horizontal. Surrounding these are a bun and several biscuits, one of which appears to have fallen off the plate. In the foreground there are also a dozen or so chocolate medallions scattered about on their wrapping paper, the initial form of the cacao that is used to prepare the thick chocolate drink.As John Armstrong Crow points out in his book Spain: The Root and the Flower (2005): During the eighteenth century two hot drinks were served in Spain, chocolate and coffee. The latter drink was popular among the French and the few Spaniards who followed them, but hot chocolate was still by far the most popular beverage. It was more than just a beverage; it was an institution of the epoch. As in the Golden Age hot chocolate was drunk by all classes. Even Charles III himself, despite his French blood, enjoyed hot chocolate and seldom failed to ask for a second cup. The chocolatera or chocolate pot at the palace held fifty-six pounds of the beverage and served a huge number of drinkers.The popularity of this exquisite drink explains its inclusion in the series of still lifes Meléndez painted, together with the other desserts and afternoon snacks he presents in his canvases. This composition is particularly noteworthy for the undeniably original way in which it is structured as well as the curious motifs it combines, uniting ideas rooted in the Spanish tradition of the seventeenth century with the refinement characteristic of the eighteenth. These expertly executed elements are sharply outlined against a neutral background, a formula that allows them to be instantly identifiable.The arrangement, which juxtaposes vertical and horizontal lines, is very clear despite the presence of various diagonals that break up the composition in the interest of naturalistic expression. Overall, the canvas reveals Meléndez´s conscious analysis of the quotidian, captured in such a way that the objects seem almost tangible. The various elements are executed with a delicacy that evinces the artist´s taste for logical construction, which creates a coherent arrangement of diverse motifs. Meléndez integrates them with a verisimilitude that draws the viewer´s gaze.However, these objects also possess a remarkable expressive power that individualises them, owing both to the skill with which they have been painted as well as to the clear delineation of their separate volumes. Meléndez has imagined a scene in which each element plays a clear and simple role. It seems almost as if all movement has ceased momentarily so that we may observe them outside time, in a kind of suspended animation. His technique is irreproachable. The sharp illumination of the metal surface of the pot is worth noting as well, for it seems to sparkle; the artist has achieved this effect through light touches of the brush applied with exquisite precision, playing with a range of colours that, at certain points, are rich with impasto (Luna, J. J.: Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado, Queensland Art Gallery-Art Exhibitions Australia, 2012, p. 172).

Technical data

Related artworks

Inventory number
Meléndez, Luis Egidio
Still Life with a Chocolate Service
High/Height: 50 cm.; Width: 37 cm.
Bodegones para el Gabinete de Historia Natural del Príncipe de Asturias (futuro Carlos IV)
Royal Collection (New Royal Palace, Madrid, "gabinete de historia natural del príncipe de Asturias", 1771; Casita del Príncipe, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid, 1778; Royal Palace of Aranjuez, Madrid, "pabellón grande del embarcadero", ca. 1785; Aranjuez Palace, "habitaciones del príncipe", ca. 1800, n. 7; Aranjuez Palace, "pieza de cubierto del rey", 1818, n. 7).

Bibliography +

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Tufts, Eleanor, Luis Meléndez, still-life painter sans pareil, Gazette des beaux-arts, 1982, pp. 144-148.

Luis Meléndez: bodegonista español del siglo XVIII, Dirección General de Bellas Artes, Archivos y Bibl, Madrid, 1982, pp. 86.

Gutiérrez Alonso, Luis Carlos, Precisiones a la cerámica de los bodegones de Luis Egido Meléndez, Boletin del Museo del Prado, 4, 1983, pp. 165.

Tufts, Eleanor, Luis Melendez Spanish Still-Life Painter of the Eighteenth C, Meadows Museum, Dallas, 1985, pp. 84.

Tufts, Eleanor, Luis Melendez: eighteenth-century master of the Spanish stil, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1985, pp. 72.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 407.

Mena Marqués, Manuela B., Da el Greco a Goya. I Secoli D'Oro Della Pittura Spagnola, Electa, Florencia, 1986, pp. 78.

Mena Marqués, Manuela B., Da el Greco a Goya. I Secoli D'Oro Della Pittura Spagnola, Electa, Milán, 1986.

Espinosa Martín, María del Carmen, Aportes documentales a los bodegones de Luis Meléndez, Boletín del Museo del Prado, X, 1989, pp. 67-77.

Moulin, Leo, Les Liturgies de la Table. Une Histoire Culturelle du Manger, Fonds Mercator, Amberes, 1989, pp. 344.

Painting in Spain during the later eighteenth century, The National Gallery, Londres, 1989, pp. 70.

Diaz, L., Madrid. Bodegones, Mesones, Fondas y Restaurantes. Cocina y, EspasaCalpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. 189.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, I, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990.

Museo Nacional del Prado, La belleza de lo real: floreros y bodegones españoles en el, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1995, pp. 120.

La Pintura Española, Electa, Milán, 1995, pp. 410/ lám.506.

Luna, Juan J., Los Alimentos de España en la Pintura. Bodegones de Luis Meléndez, Mercasa, 1995, pp. 112.

Los Cinco Sentidos y el Arte, Servicio de Educacion y Accion Cult, Madrid, 1997, pp. 322.

Mehr Licht. Europa Um 1770. Die Bildende Kunst Der Aufklarun, Klinkhardt & Biermann, Frankfurt, 1999.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Goya y la pintura española del siglo XVIII: guía, Museo del PradoAldeasa, Madrid, 2000, pp. 104.

Cherry, Peter, Luis Meléndez: bodegones, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2004, pp. 194.

Garrido Pérez, Carmen, Luis Meléndez: la serie de bodegones para el Príncipe de Ast, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2004, pp. 226-231.

Hirschauer, Gretchen A., Luis Meléndez : master of the Spanish still life, National Gallery of Art, 2009, pp. 100-103.

In the presence of things. Four centuries of European still life., Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2010, pp. 107-117.

La cocina en su tinta, Biblioteca Nacional de España, 2010, pp. 63-83.

Luna, J. J., Luis Meléndez. Bodegones para el Príncipe de Asturias, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2012, pp. 26.

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from The Prado, Queensland Art Gallery, 2012, pp. 172-173, nº49.

Mena Marques, M.B, 'Las cuatro Estaciones. Invierno' En:, Mena Marques,Manuela B. Goya en Madrid : cartones para tapices 1775-1794, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2014, pp. 273-283 [278 f.7.44].

Carlos III y el Madrid de las Luces, Ayuntamiento de Madrid,, Madrid, 2017, pp. 167.

Other inventories +

Inv. Carlos IV, Habitacs. príncipe, Aranjuez, h.1800. Núm. 7.
INVENTARIO DE TODAS LAS PINTURAS QUE ESTAN COLOCADAS EN LAS REALES HAVITACIONES DEL PRINCIPE NRO. SEÑOR EN EL REAL PALACIO DEL SITIO DE ARANJUEZ. Escrito por D. Manl Muñoz de Ugeña, y Matarranz [...] Núm. 7 / Quarenta y cinco Quadros de varios tamaños que contienen Bodegones y Fruteros; los del primer tamaño son quatro de vara de largo y tres quartas de caida; del segundo hay catorce de tres quartas de largo y media vara de caida: del tercero son doce de mas de media vara de largo y poco menos de caida; y la quarta clase que son del tamaño de los antecedentes por lo alto, son quince; Su Autor Don Luis Melendez.

Inv. Fernando VII, Aranjuez, 1814-1818. Núm. 7.
{20605} 7 / 45 quadros que representan varios fruteros quatro de ellos de tres pies de alto por tres y medio de ancho, los 41 restantes de pie y medio de alto por uno de ancho = Melendez

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 556.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 556.
Menéndez (Luis) / 556. Bodegón con una chocolatera. / Alto 1 pie, 8 pulg, 9 lin; ancho 1 pie, 3 pulg, 6 lin.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 833.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 929.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 929.

Exhibitions +

Silencio en el lienzo. La naturaleza muerta en España (siglo XVII-XX)
20.02.2018 - 27.05.2018

Carlos III y el Madrid de las luces
13.12.2016 - 29.04.2017

Goya in Madrid
28.11.2014 - 03.05.2015

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
16.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
Houston TX
15.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
22.07.2012 - 04.11.2012

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
Brisbane, Australia
21.07.2012 - 04.11.2012

La Cocina en su Tinta
22.12.2010 - 13.03.2011

Luis Meléndez (Washington / Los Ángeles / Boston)
29.01.2010 - 09.05.2010

Luis Meléndez (Washington / Los Ángeles / Boston)
Los Ángeles CA
23.09.2009 - 03.01.2010

Luis Meléndez (Washington / Los Ángeles / Boston)
Washington D.C.
17.05.2009 - 23.08.2009

Luis Meléndez
16.06.2004 - 05.09.2004

Luis Meléndez
17.02.2004 - 16.05.2004

Mehr Licht. Europe around 1770. Art and the enlightenment
22.08.1999 - 09.01.2000

Pintura Española del Siglo XVIII
14.03.1989 - 31.05.1989

Location +

(Temporary Exhibition)

Update date: 20-02-2018 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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