SANCHEZ COTÁN, Juan
(b. 1561, Orgaz, d. 1627, Granada)
Still-life with Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumberc. 1600
Oil on canvas, 69 x 85 cm
San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego
Sanchez Cotan studied in Toledo and here he established the prototype of the Spanish still-life composed mainly from vegetables.
Everyday objects: a melon, cut open to reveal its pale pink flesh, a knobby cucumber, a yellow quince that is past its best, a cabbage with thick leaves. Parallel to the picture plane, a smooth frame delineates the opening for a window. From the direction of the spectator, light falls upon the parapet, on which the slice of melon and the cucumber are placed so that they jut over slightly and thereby they seem to be almost within reach - a trompe l'oeil effect that was particularly popular in Netherlandish painting in the 17th century. The head of cabbage and the quince, suspended on threads that presumably have been attached to the upper frame, are dangling over the gaping darkness.
Even if the objects are arranged so that they seem close enough to touch, they are nevertheless distanced. For all the naturalism with which they are depicted, the isolation of each object, heightened further by the black background, makes each of them seem extremely artificial and lends them a monumental, almost sculptural gravity. The centre of the picture is empty and the arrangement seems coincidental; the dimension of the painted picture is denied. The disturbing evocation of the painted picture is the main theme.