Courbet was involved with the Paris Commune of 1871 and after its collapse he was tried and imprisoned in the Sainte-Pélagie prison. This painting can be identified with one mentioned in a list of works produced by the artist during his six-month imprisonment from 1871-72.
Courbet began painting still lifes of flowers in the early 1860s. When he was in prison, his sisters brought him fruit and flowers as subjects for his canvases. Many of these represent fruit in landscape settings.
It has been suggested that Courbet was influenced in such works by Impressionist paintings of the 1860s, but his use of line and of light and shade to emphasise the colour and shapes of the apples is predominantly traditional in character.
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