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Luis Meléndez, Still Life with Lemons and Oranges

Key facts
Full title Still Life with Lemons and Oranges
Artist Luis Meléndez
Artist dates 1716 - 1780
Date made 1760s
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 48 × 35.5 cm
Acquisition credit Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the National Gallery, 2005
Inventory number NG6602
Location Room 40
Collection Main Collection
Still Life with Lemons and Oranges
Luis Meléndez

Lemons and oranges teeter on the edge of a table or ledge in front of an earthenware jug, a huge melon, some round boxes used for storing cheese, a bottle – perhaps holding wine – and a coarsely woven basket. These everyday items, seemingly placed at random, are carefully arranged, increasing in size as our eye moves further into the picture. The sophisticated composition creates a sense of depth and draws us in.

Meléndez paints from a low viewpoint, close to the objects, and he has skilfully reproduced their textures, shapes and colours. Light and shade play across different surfaces, and the lemons look real enough to pick up. Twine has been roughly tied around the neck of the jug, holding a creased white paper cover in place to preserve its contents.

Although Meléndez began his career as a figure painter, it was with pictures such as this that he established himself as the leading still-life painter in eighteenth-century Spain.

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