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Luis Meléndez, Still Life with Oranges and Walnuts

Key facts
Full title Still Life with Oranges and Walnuts
Artist Luis Meléndez
Artist dates 1716 - 1780
Date made 1772
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 61 × 81.3 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1986
Inventory number NG6505
Location Room 40
Collection Main Collection
Still Life with Oranges and Walnuts
Luis Meléndez

Various foods and containers compete for space on a bare wooden shelf or table. A plate is piled high with walnuts, with chestnuts and oranges scattered nearby and a colossal melon behind. There are earthenware jugs, probably containing oil or wine, and a small barrel. The round boxes were normally used for storing cheese, the rectangular ones for sweets such as dulce de membrillo, a thick quince jelly eaten in slices.

The placement of these everyday objects might seem arbitrary, but Meléndez has arranged his composition carefully to lead our eye round the picture. Though the colour range is limited, the intense light emphasises the range of textures, from dimpled orange peel to the delicate woodgrain of the barrel and boxes. These qualities stand Meléndez’s still-life works apart from those of his contemporaries, and established him as the leading still-life painter of his generation.

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