MASTER of the Hartford Still-life
(active c. 1600 in Rome)

A Table Laden with Flowers and Fruit

Oil on canvas, 74 x 100 cm
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford

In a partially lit environment, a table is seen from slightly above. Placed on the table are two vases of flowers and a basket of fruit arranged in a triangle and surrounded by single pieces of fruit scattered at random. Two flies can be seen on the brightly lit wall at the upper left, and, in the foreground, some fruit and two bunches of grapes hang over the edge of the table creating a trompe-l'oeil effect. The painting aims for the same heightened sense of reality seen in Caravaggio's Boy with a Basket of Fruit. This Table (a more appropriate title than the conventional Still-life with Flowers and Fruit) shares a number of affinities with the depictions of tables laid for eating painted in Holland throughout the seventeenth century. It may be no coincidence that the first dated painting of this type from 1610 was the work of Floris van Dijck. In 1600-01 Van Dijck lived near the studio of Cavaliere d'Arpino, where pictures like the Hartford still-life were probably executed. It was Van Dijck who supplied the information about Cavaliere d'Arpino for Karel van Mander's biography.

The Hartford Table has elicited attributions of enormous diversity. The names of Giovanni Battista Crescenzi, Caravaggio, Francesco Zucchi, Prospero Orsi and finally, for no very convincing reason, the Flemish painter Frans Snyders have all been suggested. Although the attribution to Caravaggio does not seem tenable, the Hartford Table is the work of a painter who, like Caravaggio, may have been active in the studio of Cavaliere d'Arpino. It is possible that the picture can be identified with an unattributed still-life listed in the 1607 inventory of Cavaliere d'Arpino's sequestered possessions. In the first decade of the seventeenth century, this anonymous painter was evidently completely familiar with the work of Caravaggio, but chose to present his own, different interpretation of it. It has also been suggested that this Italian artist, who was influenced by Caravaggism, also possessed some familiarity with the work of the first generation of Flemish still-life painters.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 7 minutes):
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, ballet suite, op. 71, Waltz of the Flowers