A pile of lemons and oranges are piled in front of a melon, an earthenware jug, a basket, bottle and some round boxes (used for cheese). The seemingly casual array of homely objects are carefully arranged into a sophisticated and carefully thought out composition.

Meléndez has chosen a low vantage point, close to the objects so that we see the skill with which he has reproduced the different textures. The lemons, for instance, complete with lumps and knobbles, look real enough to pick up. One is about to roll off the table and fall at our feet.

Meléndez often used the same objects in his still lives. 'Still Life with Oranges and Walnuts' has a similar selection of simple foods and containers that would be found in any Spanish household.

Although he had started out as a student of figure painting, he was expelled from the Spanish Royal Academy in Madrid where he was studying following an argument between the Academy and his father. He became a miniature painter, and then specialised in still lifes, updating the austere tradition of Spanish still life painters from the previous century such as Zurbarán.

Key facts

Artist
Artist dates
1716 - 1780
Full title
Still Life with Lemons and Oranges
Date made
1760s
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
48 x 35.5 cm
Acquisition credit
Accepted by H.M. Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the National Gallery, 2005
Inventory number
NG6602
Location in Gallery