CAMPI, Vincenzo
(b. ca. 1530, Cremona, d. 1591, Cremona)

Fruit Seller

c. 1580
Oil on canvas, 145 x 215 cm
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

The intensification of agriculture from the early 16th century onwards was accompanied by the promotion of the botanical sciences. These new insights then influenced the 'pater familias' literature, which also included advice on the improvement of fruit farming. It is worth noting that early market, kitchen and pantry paintings (e.g. by Joachim Beuckelaer, Frans Snyders and Adriaen van Utrecht) displayed not only vegetables piled up in baskets, but also fruits of all kinds, bulging out over the edge of the plate. Fruit included everything that grew on trees, such as apples, pears, nuts, cherries, plums, peaches, apricots, quinces, chestnuts, etc., as well as shrub fruit, such as blackberries, raspberries and currants.

Fruit was always one of the last courses in a banquet. In the cuisine of the landed gentry and the merchant classes, great emphasis was therefore placed o the more refined fruits: wild fruit from the woods, fields and meadows were considered inferior, as they were smaller and had less taste. Every larger household therefore had an orchard that was laid out and cultivated according to the latest knowledge, where summer and winter fruits were grown that had to be frost-resistant and suitable for longer storage. Similar to nowadays, people valued firmness and a rich, juicy consistency, brought about by hybridization and special methods of cultivation.

In earlier still-lifes the different fruits were still neatly separated, and depicted either as market products or freshly harvested and straight from the trees or shrubs, as in Vincenzo Campi's paintings. Later, the motif of the market or pantry with its emphasis on variety was increasingly given up in favour of isolated fruit baskets where different fruits were put together like flower arrangements. One of the first example is Caravaggio's Fruit Basket from about 1596.