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Two Bunches of Grapes with a Fly
Attributed to Pret, Miguel de
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Attributed to Pret, Miguel de

Antwerp, 1595 - Zaragoza, 1644

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Two Bunches of Grapes with a Fly

1630 - 1644. Oil on canvas.
Room 008A

Like its companion (P7906), this piece was acquired by the Museo del Prado with an attribution to Fernández el Labrador (doc. 1629-1657), a painter specialized in depictions of grapes. However, the similarity of both paintings to a canvas at the Museo Cerralbo (Madrid, Inv. no. 3898) on which Pret’s signature was discovered in 2013, explains its new attribution to that Flemish-born still-life painter who worked as an archer in Philip IV’ guard.

Recent historical and technical studies suggest the existence of five works that are interrelated both stylistically and by their later repainting to isolate the grapes over uniform dark backgrounds for identical esthetic reasons. That group would consist of the present work, Two Bunches of Grapes with a Fly (P7905), and two pairs of works: on one hand, the previously mentioned piece at the Museo Cerralbo, Bunch of White Grapes (Inv. no. 3898), which would be paired with Hanging Bunch of Grapes, in a private collection in Cantabria. On the other, Two Bunches of White Grapes, also at the Museo Cerralbo (Inv. no. 3899), and its companion, Two Bunches of Grapes (Museo del Prado, P7906). In the case of the first pair, the most important discovery was the signature, Miguel de Pret fecit, at the center of the Museo Cerralbo’s canvas, where it had been hidden under a coat of black paint applied to the entire background and was thus only visible in an x-ray image. The lettering resembles that on the only still life known to be signed by this painter: the Juan Abelló Collection’s Still Life with Basket of Plums and Figs and a Melon on a Shelf with Hanging Peppers, Grapes and Quinces, which also has a very detailed depiction of grapes. X-rays of the present work have shown that the painter reused a larger canvas on which he had previously sketched a different scene, although only a plant stem towards the top and some straight lines that may be the edge of a window or table are identifiable. The x-ray of its companion, now in a private collection in Cantabria, reveals a direct relation between the two works, as both were painted on fragments of the same canvas with the earlier composition of unfinished stems and leaves. The cloth is the same and both works have been subjected to a similar posterior manipulation, with cuts to the original support and splices of another cloth whose priming is highly radiopaque, as well as the vertical addition of a very similar fabric on the left side. Everything seems to indicate that those two paintings were never part of a single composition, but were instead conceived independently on recycled pieces of a single earlier piece.

Two links were also detected between the works in the second pair. Two Bunches of White Grapes at the Museo Cerralbo, and the Museo del Prado’s Two Bunches of Grapes (P7906) have similar supports, but most of all, they have been subjected to the same repainting to modify the special context in which the grapes originally appeared. In the case of the Museo Cerralbo’s canvas, it is impossible to know whether it always had its present dimensions, as there are no stretcher marks, nor any signs of having been tightened. And matters are further complicated by the presence of numerous lateral splices made with a radiopaque fabric similar to the one employed in the manipulation of the first pair of works. On the other hand, the deformation caused by the original tightening of the Museo del Prado’s canvas shows that its present dimensions are similar to the original ones. Regardless of their original size, both still lifes have had a strip approximately three centimeters wide cut from the bottom and reattached at the top. This has nothing to do with any process of restoration or conservation, and can only be explained as a deliberate operation to modify the framing of the bunches of grapes that stand out against the extremely dark backgrounds -more concretely, to adjust the rectangle that surrounds them in order to lengthen the strings from which they hang and to center them on the painted surface.

This group of works attributed to Miguel de Pret is completed by the present still life from the Museo del Prado (P7905), which retains its original format despite some minor changes in its dimensions. A narrow strip was cut from the right side and used on another part of the canvas, specifically, to create a splice on the left side, and a smaller one on the upper part of the bunch of grapes.

Thus, all five works share a black background that destroys the original contexts of their bunches of grapes. At the same time, they are clearly a falsification of representations of grapes formerly identified with Juan Fernández el Labrador. Some of these representations may have been the result of repairs to damaged canvases, or even a matter of separating them so that they could be sold, but the three last canvases reveal a very clear esthetic intent. The person who manipulated these works not only valued the disconcerting effect of a bunch of grapes hanging in the darkness; he also sought to situate them in the surrounding space in a manner that reflects his period’s tastes. At some undetermined moment -the type of modifications and the origin of the attributions that these works bore until recently suggest that it was during the 19th century- a decision was made to falsify Labrador’s grapes through a double manipulation: first, a visual one, in which most of the canvases were subjected to a more conservative framing than they originally had; and second, a manipulation of their attribution by hiding the signature of their true creator, Miguel de Pret. We do not know if this latter manipulation was deliberate, or if the signature was already hidden, but its disappearance made it possible to assign these disquieting depictions to a 17th-century artist praised by the treatise writers for his excellent invention and skill. Meanwhile, a completely unknown Miguel de Pret remained forgotten by art history and collectors until the first half of the 20th century (Text drawn from Aterido, A., Alba, L.: "Juan Fernández el Labrador, Miguel de Pret y la construcción de la naturaleza muerta", Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXXI, 49, 2013, pp. 34-53).

Technical data

Related artworks

Two Bunches of Grapes
Oil on canvas, 1630 - 1644
Pret, Miguel de
Inventory number
Attributed to Pret, Miguel de
Two Bunches of Grapes with a Fly
1630 - 1644
Height: 29 cm; Width: 38 cm
Acquisition from the Rosendo Naseiro Collection, for the Museo del Prado, 2006.

Bibliography +

Jordan, William B., Spanish Still Life From Velazquez To Goya, National Gallery, Londres, 1995, pp. nº21.

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

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

Lo fingido verdadero. Bodegones de la colección Naseiro adquiridos para el Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2006, pp. 60.

El vino en El Prado, Fundación para la cultura del vino, 2007.

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.

Luna, Juan J., El bodegón español en el Prado: de Van der Hamen a Goya, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2008, pp. 64/65.

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

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

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 [34-40 f.8e.].

Aterido Fernández, Ángel, Juan Fernández el Labrador. Naturalezas muertas, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2013, pp. 12-13.

Naturalezas muertas en la España del Siglo de Oro, Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum, 2015, pp. 34-36 n.4.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2705.

Exhibitions +

Los bodegones del Siglo de Oro español. Obras Maestras del Museo del Prado
23.04.2015 - 26.07.2015

Juan Fernández el Labrador. Still Lifes
12.03.2013 - 16.06.2013

El bodegón español en el Prado
24.03.2011 - 26.06.2011

El bodegón español en el Prado
11.03.2010 - 06.06.2010

El bodegón español en el Prado
12.10.2009 - 14.02.2010

El bodegón español en el Prado
25.06.2009 - 20.09.2009

El bodegón español en el Prado
31.03.2009 - 31.05.2009

El bodegón español en el Prado
24.09.2008 - 30.11.2008

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

Location +

Room 008A (On Display)

Update date: 01-02-2023 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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