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Still Life with four Bunches of Grapes
Fernández "el Labrador", Juan
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Fernández "el Labrador", Juan

Jaraicejo (Cáceres), 1629 - Madrid, 1657

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Still Life with four Bunches of Grapes

Ca. 1636. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

Before a dark background, four bunches of grapes are displayed to the viewer in this painting. The bunch occupying the central position, larger than the rest, is coloured blue-violet, while the other grapes are rendered in golden tones. All of the bunches hang from their branches, which in turn hang from strings. The inclusion of the stems allows for the presence of the leaves, which are twisted and folded in a variety of forms. The motif of grapes on the stem hanging from strings appears in other Spanish still lifes, such as Still life with a cardoon, francolin, grapes and irises by Felipe Ramírez (P2802), signed in 1628, itself inspired by the paintings of Juan Sánchez Cotán. This still life is the pendant of another painting also in the Museo del Prado (P7903), and both are attributed to the painter Juan Fernández, known as El Labrador (the peasant), because he lived in the countryside. The fact that the majority of his paintings do not feature any manufactured objects helped to popularise his nickname. Unlike his contemporaries, El Labrador rarely signed his works. Consequently, the starting point for the construction of his catalogue is the only surviving work signed by him (from 1636, now in a private collection) and a still life in England (Hampton Court Palace), which is one of five works by El Labrador sent to that palace by the English ambassador in Madrid. Bunches of grapes and vine leaves are motifs closely associated with the image we have of El Labrador as an artist, for they appear in almost every work attributed to him, at times in isolation and at others accompanied by other types of fruit. In almost every case, the subject is presented before a very dark background, which allows the artist to deploy subtle gradations in light to describe fruit and leaves in exacting detail. By means of this technique, he is able to achieve a remarkable degree of individualisation in making manifest not only the specific varieties of grape but also in suggesting various states of ripeness. Grapes, as a subject, are directly related to the origins of the still-life genre, for -as is made explicit in Octagonal still life with bunches of grapes by Juan de Espinosa (P7924)- they are a motif closely associated with the principal legend from classical antiquity about painting´s illusionistic aims, namely, the story of Zeuxis, who had depicted grapes so convincingly that his painting deceived some birds that sought to eat them. It is becoming increasingly apparent to scholars of seventeenth-century still-life painting that it is definitively not a genre without a history, emerging out of the void fully formed, without precedents in earlier traditions. Even as contemporary writers like the painter and theorist Francisco Pacheco observed, the genealogy of the still life went back to the ancient Greeks, and what painters from the beginning of the seventeenth century were seeking to do was to recover this subject from antiquity. In the case of El Labrador, the presence of his works in the Spanish and British Royal Collections, or in important aristocratic collections such as those of the Roman-born painter Giovanni Battista Crescenzi, the Marquis of Leganés or the Marquis of Carpio, reflects the value such apparently insignificant (for us) works were accorded by contemporary cognoscenti, for in fact these images represent the most extreme case of painting aspiring to confuse illusion and reality (Portús, J.: Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado, Queensland Art Gallery-Art Exhibitions Australia, 2012, p. 156).


Technical data

Related artworks

Inventory number
Fernández "el Labrador", Juan
Still Life with four Bunches of Grapes
Ca. 1636
Height: 45 cm; Width: 61 cm
Manuel Montesinos Collection, Valencia, 1850; acquisition from the Rosendo Naseiro Collection, 2006.

Bibliography +

Jordan, William B., Spanish Still Life From Velazquez To Goya, National Gallery, Londres, 1995, pp. nº22.

Cherry, Peter, Arte y naturaleza: el bodegón español en el siglo de oro, Ediciones Doce Calles, Madrid, 1999, pp. 219.

Arte y saber: la cultura en tiempos de Felipe III y Felipe I, Ministerio de Educación y Cultura, Valladolid, 1999, pp. nº39.

Scheffler, Felix, Das Spanische Stilleben des 17. Jahrhunderts.Theorie, Genese, Vervuert Verlag, Frankfurt, 2000, pp. 231-232.

Cherry, Peter, La Pintura de Bodegón en las Colecciones del Museo Cerralbo, Ministerio de Educación, Madrid, 2001, pp. 42.

Aterido Fernández, Ángel, El Bodegon en la España del Siglo de Oro, Edilupa Ediciones: S.L., Madrid, 2002, pp. 46-47.

Museo Nacional del Prado, La Almoneda del Siglo: relaciones artísticas entre España y Gran Bretaña, 1604-1655, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2002, pp. nº31.

Lo fingido verdadero. Bodegones de la colección Naseiro adquiridos para el Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2006, pp. 59.

Portús Pérez, Javier, Memoria de Actividades 2006, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2007, pp. 20-30.

Natures mortes de Sánchez Cotán a Goya a l'entorn de la col...., Museu Nacional d'Art de Cataluny, Barcelona, 2007.

Juan de Labrador, la mosca en la uva,, Libre Producciones, 2008.

Romero Asenjo, Rafael, El bodegón español en el siglo XVII : desvelando su naturale..., I & R, 2009, pp. 154-159.

In the presence of things : four centuries of European still..., Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisboa, 2010, pp. 156.

Hernández Nieves, Román, La naturaleza muerta en la pintura extremeña, Museo de Bellas Artes, 2010, pp. 90-93.

Täuschend echt : Illusion und Wirklichkeit in der Kunst, Hirmer, 2010, pp. 92-93.

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from The Prado, Queensland Art Gallery, 2012, pp. 156-157, nº39.

Aterido, A., ALba, L., Juan Fernández 'El Labrador', Miguel de Pret y la 'construcción' de la naturaleza muerta, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXXI, 2013, pp. 34-53 [48-49 f.10b].

Aterido Fernández, Ángel, Juan Fernández el Labrador. Naturalezas muertas, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2013, pp. 46-47.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2704.

Exhibitions +

Cubism and the Trompe L'Oeil Tradition
Nueva York NY
17.10.2022 - 22.01.2023

Hiperreal. El arte del trampantojo
16.03.2022 - 22.05.2022

Juan Fernández el Labrador. Still Lifes
12.03.2013 - 16.06.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
22.07.2012 - 04.11.2012

Genuine Illusions. The Art of Trompe l'Oeil
13.02.2010 - 24.05.2010

Naturalezas muertas. De Sánchez Cotán a Goya. En el entorno de la Colección Naseiro
26.03.2007 - 24.06.2007

Lo fingido verdadero. Bodegones españoles de la colección Naseiro adquiridos para el Prado.<br />
24.10.2006 - 07.01.2007

Update date: 03-02-2023 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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