This beautiful early 19th-century still life depicts an arrangement of fruit including lemons, grapes, pomegranates and apples. It’s distinctly unusual for its spherical form, which gives it a three-dimensional quality.
When comparing the work to others, we’ve been unable to find anything quite like it. In fact, it’s more akin to a design you might find on porcelain than an oil painting. Traditionally, still life painting in continental Europe followed a few simple rules - many of which are derived from 17th-century Dutch paintings. However, this piece breaks them, there’s nothing to ground the fruit, they hang abstracted in space, cleverly foreshortened to create perspective.
The general atmosphere feels a little Roman and it sits alongside works by Caravaggio quite comfortably. However, it feels less like a painting produced for the art market and more like a design for a larger scheme.
It’s also interesting that the artist has made several visible modifications to the piece including removing grapes from the foreground, which would’ve hung in front of the lemons. They’ve also removed some leaves. Examination under UV helps to date these adjustments as early rather than recent.
So with this in mind, this was probably a design for a room interior produced by an artist while working with a client (perhaps a fussy one). And maybe somewhere in either France, Italy or Germany, there exists a room with a version of this displayed as part of an overall interior.
A wonderful decorative item and it’s hard to find anything quite comparable.
Held within a later frame.
Medium: Oil on paper laid on board.
Overall size: 23” x 22½” / 58cm x 57cm
Year of creation: c. 1830
Condition: Artwork presents well. Minor paint loss around the periphery.