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Still Life with Fish and Turtle
Recco, Giuseppe
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Recco, Giuseppe

Naples, 1634 - Alicante, 1695

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Still Life with Fish and Turtle

Ca. 1680. Oil on canvas.
Room 006

Giuseppe Recco, a member of one of the most famous families of Neapolitan still-life painters in the seventeenth century, was born in Naples on 12 July 1634. His vast output was consistently high in quality and is characterised by a marked cultural eclecticism, taking in a number of different still-life styles, from Spanish to northern European to Roman, with an unusual iconographic versatility.

Indeed, during his glorious career Recco painted sideboards and kitchen interiors inspired by his uncle Giovan Battista Recco (1615-1660); compositions with fish and shellfish, bunches of flowers and vegetation revealing the influence of Paolo Porpora (1617-1673); triumphs of fruit and game; tables sumptuously decked out with foodstuffs and confectionery; and compositions with musical instruments, books, curiosities and objects that allude to moralising symbolism or to the theme of vanitas. Throughout the 1670s Recco tried his hand at another highly original and sophisticated thematic vein: displays of archaeological finds, such as ceramics, vases made of terracotta, glass and crystal, the most notable examples of which are the canvases belonging to the Fundación Casa Ducal de Medinaceli, Seville, and Muzeum Narodowe, Warsaw. This example from the Prado comes from the collection of Philip V and is signed on the lower right with the artist’s typical monogram G. R. Here Recco creates an evocative composition featuring sea creatures on the rocks of the seashore -bass, mullet, bream, squid and a large sea turtle depicted with startling naturalism and in minute detail, from its shell to its flippers, which project from the rocks, to its wrinkled neck and head with hooked beak- with a glimpse of setting sky in the background. Increasing the sense of freshness of this catch are Recco’s typically gelatinous droplets of water, and seaweed and algae across the rocky surface.

In addition to the intense naturalism of this painted survey, executed with the artist’s unrivalled touch, Recco’s highly polished skill emerges in the play of transparency and reflections in the water; in the finely balanced tonal combinations and vibrant sparkle of a multitude of shimmering, silvery scales of the fish and wet tentacles of the squid. These characteristics of Recco’s paintings were highly acclaimed by the Neapolitan historian Bernardo de Dominici in his biography of the artist (1742-45), which spread Recco’s fame far beyond Naples and was ultimately responsible for him being sent late in life to the court of Charles II in Spain, where he died in 1695.

As far as the dating of this picture is concerned, the work shares several features in common with the roughly contemporary painting Fish and shellfish on the rocks, c.1675-80 (Museo Diego Aragona Pignatelli Cortes, Naples). The most likely dating of Still life with fish and a turtle belongs to the mature phase of Recco’s career, towards the 1680s, when he had overcome the static quality that characterises his work of the 1670s and moved towards a new Baroque sensibility which led him to create images of posed nature, with an increasingly scenic and decorative character, set along the seashore against a luminous sky (Text drawn from Dotti, D.: Italian Masterpieces. From Spain´s Royal Court, Museo del Prado, 2014, p. 188).

Technical data

Inventory number
Recco, Giuseppe
Still Life with Fish and Turtle
Ca. 1680
Height: 75 cm; Width: 91 cm
Royal Collection (colección Felipe V, Quinta del duque del Arco, El Pardo-Madrid, undécima pieza de verano, 1745, [nº 374]; Quinta del duque del Arco, pieza décima, 1794, nº 324).

Bibliography +

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura italiana del S. XVII en España, Universidad Fundación Valdecilla, Madrid, 1965, pp. 428.

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. 446.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura española de bodegones y floreros de 1600 a Goya, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1983, pp. 115.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 537.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Pintura napolitana: de Caravaggio a Giordano, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 258 / lám. 106.

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. 347 / lám. 1244.

Magariños, A., Las Raices de Todas las Cosas. Exposición con motivo del Día Mundial del Medio Ambiente 1989, Ministerio de Obras Públicas, Madrid, 1989, pp. 56.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. nº1882.

Bettagno, Alessandro, El Museo del Prado, Fonds MercatorFundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1996, pp. 289.

Aterido Fernández, Ángel; Martínez Cuesta, Juan; Pérez Preciado, José Juan, Colecciones de pinturas de Felipe V e Isabel Farnesio. Inventarios Reales, II, Fundación de Apoyo de la Historia del Arte Hispánico, Madrid, 2004, pp. 452.

Dotti, D, Giuseppe Recco. 'Still life with fish and a turtle' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 188.

Other inventories +

Inv. Felipe V, Quinta duque del Arco, 1745. Núm. [374].
Undecima Pieza de verano [...] [374-375] Otros dos quadros de vara y tercia de ancho, y menos de vara de alto, con difertes pescados, y aves, sus marcos dorados=

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1882.
Recio (firmado) / 1882. Unos pescados. / Alto 2 pies, 8 pulg; ancho 3 pies, 8 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 319.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 319.

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Quinta duque del Arco, 1794. Núm. 324.
Pieza Decima [...] [5024] 324 / Otro [quadro] con marco dorado de vara escasa de alto, y cinco quartas de ancho: representa una pesca y vale ... 200

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 353.

Inscriptions +

G. R.
Signed. Front, lower right corner

Inscribed in yellow. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

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

Exposición sobre el Medio Ambiente
06.06.1989 - 30.06.1989

Location +

Room 006 (On Display)

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

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