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Francisco de Zurbarán, A Cup of Water and a Rose

Key facts
Full title A Cup of Water and a Rose
Artist Francisco de Zurbarán
Artist dates 1598 - 1664
Date made about 1630
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 21.2 × 30.1 cm
Acquisition credit Bought for the National Gallery by the George Beaumont Group, 1997
Inventory number NG6566
Location Room 30
Collection Main Collection
A Cup of Water and a Rose
Francisco de Zurbarán

In this small and intimate painting, everyday objects appear monumental and take on a mystical intensity. On a tabletop or ledge, a ceramic cup of water with delicately curved handles sits in the centre of a silver plate. A thornless rose in full bloom balances on the plate’s edge.

That these objects have religious significance would have been immediately obvious to devout Spanish viewers in the seventeenth century. The cup of water and the rose were seen as symbols of the Virgin Mary’s purity; the fact that the flower is thornless may refer to the Immaculate Conception (the belief that Mary was conceived without sin).

Zurbarán’s painting encourages meditation and quiet contemplation; an approach not dissimilar to that which he adopted in his religious paintings. The stark simplicity of the surrounding space provides no distractions, and we are invited to appreciate the beauty of light reflecting on water and bouncing off polished surfaces.

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