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Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose, 1633
Francisco de ZurbaránSpanish, 1598-1664
Oil on canvas
24-1/2 x 43-1/8 in. (62.2 x 109.5 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© 2012 The Norton Simon Foundation
This extraordinary painting by Zurbarán, the only signed and dated still life by this great master of the school of Seville, has been widely admired as a masterpiece of the genre. To devout Spanish Catholics in the 17th century, the apparently humble objects portrayed here contained significant religious meaning. The measured placement of the three motifs, for example, would have been instantly understood as an allusion to the Holy Trinity. The painting has also been interpreted as an homage to the Virgin, with the oranges, their blossoms, and the cup of water symbolizing her purity, and the thornless rose referring to her Immaculate Conception.
Zurbarán depicted the physical character of the objects, and the space they inhabit, with unparalleled focus and skill. By modeling the rough-skinned yellow citrons with hints of green and russet, he suggests the fruit’s protuberance and weight. The arrangement of the orange leaves creates a rhythm of light and shadow, echoed again in the reflective surfaces of the pewter plates. Presented as a quiet, meditative piece within a shallow, minimally described space, this still life evokes a mystical intensity that transcends time in its appeal.
A recent cleaning has removed opaque layers of varnish and discolored retouches, revealing once again the clearly defined edges of the table, the four decorative inlays at each corner, and Zurbarán’s characteristic skill in describing the rough, textural skin of the citrus fruit. The welcome balance between the dark, atmospheric background, the warm tones of the fruit and basket, and the cooler tones of the silver plate and ceramic cup have been restored.
Click here to watch a video about the 2008 restoration of this painting.
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