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Still Life with Dead Bird
Espinosa, Juan de
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Espinosa, Juan de

1628, 1659

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Still Life with Dead Bird

1651. Oil on panel.
Room 018

The great charm of this still life has evidently long been apparent to lovers of painting, since it is first recorded in the collection of Gaspar de Haro, later VII Marqués del Carpio (1651), who was one of the most distinguished aristocratic picture collectors of his day. Its size is clearly a factor; the intimate scale is particularly alluring. Indeed, the appeal to collectors of small still lifes of this type is shown by a number of other examples in this exhibition, painted in Spain and elsewhere. The wooden support was relatively unusual for still-life paintings in seventeenth-century Spain. However, Espinosa would have chosen it for a number of technical advantages over canvas in a work of this size, not least of which is that the hard, non-absorbent surface of panel registers brushwork and colours with great immediacy. In the case of this small picture, then, the artist must have considered it an appropriate support to display his painterly effects. In this respect, Espinosa had learned from El Labrador, by whom at least one comparable panel is known today. Grapes became a trademark motif in the work of Juan de Espinosa, as in that of Labrador, and both artists sometimes combined these with small imported red-ware pottery cups and bottles (búcaros). These latter objects were collectables among the upper classes at court as would have been the exotic shell in the picture exhibited here. Indeed, these very things appear prominently in a still life of exotica appropriate for a collector´s cabinet painted by Antonio Pereda (Moscow, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts). Espinosa´s inclusion of a dead finch in his still life may also have been pre-empted by Labrador; two still lifes with birds were listed among the group of works attributed to Labrador in the collection of the Earl of Northumberland in 1671, although the document does not say whether the animals were dead or alive. For the connoisserur, the presence of the bird with grapes inevitably brought to mind the story of Zeuxis´still life from classical Antiquity, in which the fruit was so realistic as to attract the attentions of birds. Indeed, a subtle reference to this might be implied by the fact that one of the grapes is missing from the stalk in the left foreground of the picture. However, the fact that the bird is dead gives an ironic twist to this story. It, however, a conceit the artist and his public appears to have enjoyed, since he repeated it on a number of occasions (Texto extractado de Cherry, Peter, In the presence of things: four centuries of European still-life painting, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2010, pp. 236-237).

In the presence of things: four centuries of European still-life painting, Lisbon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2010, p.236-237

Technical data

Inventory number
Espinosa, Juan de
Still Life with Dead Bird
Height: 23 cm; Width: 30 cm
Collection of Gaspar Méndez de Haro y Guzmán, Marquess of Heliche, in 1651; Royal Collection (Palacio de Aranjuez, Madrid). Ingresó en el Museo en 1848.

Bibliography +

Pérez Sánchez, A. E., D. Antonio de Pereda (1611-1678) y la pintura madrileña de su tiempo, Cat. exposición celebrada en Madrid, Salas de Exposiciones del Palacio de Bibliotecas y Museos, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1978, pp. nº76.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura española de bodegones y floreros de 1600 a Goya, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1983, pp. 60, nº35.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 211.

Jordan, W. B., Spanish still life in the Golden Age: 1600-1650, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1985, pp. 165-166.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., La nature morte espagnole du XVII sièecle a Goya, Office du Livre; Vilo, Friburgo, 1987, pp. 62 / lám. 48.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. nº2861.

García Sainz, Mª Concepción; Albert y León, Mª Ángeles, Exotismo y belleza de una cerámica, ARTES DE MEXICO, 1991, pp. 46.

Museo Nacional del Prado, La belleza de lo real: floreros y bodegones españoles en el, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1995, pp. 70.

Cherry, Peter, Arte y naturaleza: el bodegón español en el siglo de oro, Ediciones Doce Calles, Aranjuez, 1999, pp. 213 / lám. 146.

Esplendores de Espanha de el Greco a Velazquez, Arte Viva, Rio Janeiro, 2000, pp. 228.

In the presence of things: four centuries of European still-life painting, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, 2010, pp. 236-237.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Las aves en el Museo del Prado, SEO/BirdLife, 2010, pp. 109/109,223.

El arte del comer : de la naturaleza muerta a Ferran Adrià, Obra Social de Catalunya Caixa, 2011, pp. 66.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 1947.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 1966.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1972. Núm. 1989.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 1989.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 2861.
2861. Una mesa con pajaros y ubas. (en tabla). Flamenco. / Alto 10 pulg; ancho 1 pie, 1 pulg.

Exhibitions +

El arte del comer
14.03.2011 - 26.06.2011

The Object Observed. Five Centuries of European Still-Life
11.02.2010 - 02.05.2010

De El Greco a Velázquez. La cultura española durante la Unión Ibérica, 1580-1640
Río de Janeiro
12.07.2000 - 24.09.2000

Location +

Room 018 (On Display)

Update date: 31-05-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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