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Still Life with Watermelon, Pastries, Bread and Wine
Meléndez, Luis Egidio
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Meléndez, Luis Egidio

Naples (Italy), 1716 - Madrid (Spain), 1780

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Still Life with Watermelon, Pastries, Bread and Wine

1770. Oil on canvas.
Room 088

Luis Meléndez distinguished himself as the greatest bodegón, or still-life, painter in late eighteenth-century Spain. By this time, the popularity of the genre had declined in Spain and was not practiced by any of Meléndez’ contemporaries at court. Even so, Meléndez painted over one hundred bodegones in his lifetime, leading art historians to infer that he took a personal interest in the subject. He was unsuccessful in finding royal patronage for history paintings and portraits, so still-life painting offered an alternative genre that could be pursued for the general market. As Meléndez no doubt discovered in the process of painting this body of work, still-life painting, despite its lowly status within the hierarchy of genres, required rigorous artistic discipline, suited his aesthetic goals, and provided a means toward a deeper meditation on the relationship between visual perception and the human body.

Between 1759 and 1774, Meléndez painted 44 still-lifes for Charles, Prince of Asturias (the future Charles IV), many of which are now in the Museo Nacional del Prado. Still Life with Watermelon, Pastries, Bread, and Wine was once part of the royal collection in the Aranjuez Palace, a gift by Meléndez to Charles and his wife María Luisa of Parma. In 1771, Meléndez received a commission to continue his series of still-life paintings on the theme of the natural history of Spain for the prince’s Gabinete de Historia Natural, or Cabinet of Natural History.

Still Life with Watermelon, Pastries, Bread, and Wine displays the hallmarks of Meléndez’ approach to the bodegón. A few objects occupy an old wooden table whose edge runs parallel to the picture plane. Dripping with juice, the luscious red watermelon is the focal point of the composition. Like the majority of Meléndez’ still-lifes, the objects of this composition occupy an indoor space.

Light falls from the left, illuminating the freshly cut watermelon surrounded by four azaroles (an edible Mediterranean fruit which resembles a tiny apple), three pastries, a loaf of bread, and a glass of wine. The black background provides a strong contrast with the pastries and bread, intensifying their color and material presence.

Within a narrow range of object choices, Meléndez created an endless variety of original works. Still Life with Watermelon, Pastries, Bread, and Wine is one of only three paintings featuring cut pieces of watermelon as a focal point, while a similar type of cloth appears relatively often in baskets, though rarely as it is displayed here, under the melon. The distinctive conical pastries appear in the foreground of Still Life with Pastries, Jug, and Receptacles, which may have been painted after this work. The ceramic plate from Talavera, with its characteristic undulating rim (popularly called a plato de castañuela [castanet plate)], is found in several of the artist’s other canvases.

In this work, Meléndez continues the tradition of the early seventeenth-century still-life, with an objective rendering of the fruits, bread, and wine glass using chiaroscuro, a balance of light and shadow, to create a naturalistic image. With the exception of a few highlights, the brushwork is nearly invisible. Each object is carefully delineated with sharp contour lines. Meléndez labored over his compositions, sometimes changing objects or their positions to produce harmony and balance. Originally, this painting included chestnuts and a wine bottle. The low viewpoint and the scale of the objects within the frame give the sensation that the objects painted are within reach not only of our eyes, but also of our fingers. Folds of the cloth project into our space, a common device in still-life painting. Nearly hidden in the shadow of the watermelon is a knife, whose blade is barely visible.

The melon appears so recently cut that the fruit retains its chromatic vibrancy. Beside the single seed, a drop of juice lies on the top of the cloth. Meléndez uses all his skill to convince the viewer that these delectable foodstuffs are within reach not only of our gaze, but also of our touch. As we are looking at the object, we imagine how it would feel not just on our fingers, but also on our tongues. Through vision, we can imagine tasting the sweet succulent flesh of the watermelon or taking a sip of the red wine (Lipinski, L.: El Greco to Goya. Masterpieces from the Prado Museum, Museo de Arte de Ponce, 2012, pp. 132-133).

Technical data

Inventory number
Meléndez, Luis Egidio
Still Life with Watermelon, Pastries, Bread and Wine
Height: 35 cm; Width: 48 cm
Bodegones para el Gabinete de Historia Natural del Príncipe de Asturias (futuro Carlos IV)
Royal Collection (Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, gabinete de historia natural del príncipe de Asturias, 1771; Casita del Príncipe, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid, 1778; Palacio de Aranjuez, Madrid, pabellón grande del embarcadero, h. 1785; Aranjuez, habitaciones del príncipe, h. 1800, nº 7; Aranjuez, pieza de cubierto del rey, 1818, nº 7).

Bibliography +

Salas, Xavier de, 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, 99/00, 1982, pp. nº14.

Luna, Juan J. (dir. y coord. cat.), Luis Meléndez: bodegonista español del siglo XVIII /, Catálogo de la exposición celebrada en Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, diciembre 1982-enero 1983., Dirección General de Bellas Artes, Archivos y Bibl..., 1982, pp. nº18.

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

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 406.

Tufts, Eleanor, Luis Melendez: eighteenth-century master of the Spanish stil, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1985, pp. 71.

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

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990.

Garrido Pérez, Carmen, Luis Meléndez: la serie de bodegones para el Príncipe de Ast, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2004, pp. 212-217.

In the presence of things: four centuries of European still-life painting, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, 2010, pp. 107-117.

Del Greco a Goya. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado, Museo de Arte de Ponce. MNP. AC/E, 2012, pp. 82-83.

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 113.
Meléndez / 113. Un frutero con una zandia partida, un pan y quesos. / Alto 1 pie, 2 pulg, 8 lin; ancho 1 pie, 8 pulg, 6 lin.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 113.

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

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.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 819.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 915.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 915.

Inscriptions +

Egidius Ludovicus / Rivera Durazo de S. / P. 1770
Inscribed in black. Front, lower area

Inscribed in gray. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in white. Front, lower left corner

Fachada al Qto. Principe [¿?] a de la del Ujier
Inscribed. Frame, back, lower bar

[...] / Nº 37 [muy perdida]
Inscribed in golden colour. Frame, back, upper bar

+ / [...]nelo chubo de la dere / cha de la entrada / y en los de[m]as [...]
Inscribed in golden colour. Frame, back, upper bar

Exhibitions +

From El Greco to Goya: Masterpieces from the Museo del Prado
Ponce, Puerto Rico
25.03.2012 - 16.07.2012

Location +

Room 088 (On Display)


Displayed objects +

Bread: Pieza de pan, a la derecha de la composición. Hasta el siglo XX, en la España Rural las gentes cocían su propio pan, aunque también había hornos comunales. Los panes que pinta Meléndez tienen distintas formas y tamaños. Hay molletes (redondos, pequeños y por lo regular, blancos) con ejemplos como Bodegón con peritas, pan, alcarraza, cuenco y frasca (P912), que dado el gusto de los madrileños por los sabores fuertes, seguramente estaban cocidos con especias; roscas crujientes como en Bodegón con uvas y sandía, rosca de pan, queso, jarra y vaso (colección Masaveu, depositado en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias); así como rellenos de tocino o sardinas, como podemos apreciar en Bodegón con pan, botella y puchero (colección Masaveu, depositado en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias). (Seseña, N. en: Luis Meléndez. Bodegones, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2004).


Wine: Vino tinto. En la época de Meléndez eran célebres en Madrid los vinos moscateles de Carabanchel, Hortaleza, Fuencarral, Villaverde y Alcalá de Henares. Vinos blancos y tintos de uvas menos preciadas llegaron a la corte desde Pinto, que se hizo muy famoso porque el pueblo era el lugar de paso para la corte y por eso lo compraban muchos viajeros ilustres. El rey de los vinos ordinarios era el de Valdemoro, que hasta abastecía al Palacio Real, sin olvidar los de Vicálvaro, Alcobendas, Fuenlabrada, Alcorcón, Majadahonda y Móstoles (Seseña, N. en: Luis Meléndez. Bodegones, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2004).

Glasses and Goblets: Copa de vidrio de pie abalaustrado.


Plate: Plato de borde ligeramente ondulado, sobre el que se disponen tres quesos.

Textile, Domestic: Paño de cocina o servilleta

Update date: 09-04-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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