National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Still Life with Sweets and Pottery Juan van der Hamen y León (artist)
Spanish, 1596 - 1631
Still Life with Sweets and Pottery, 1627
oil on canvas
overall: 84.5 x 112.7 cm (33 1/4 x 44 3/8 in.) framed: 106 x 136.2 x 7.6 cm (41 3/4 x 53 5/8 x 3 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1961.9.75
On View
From the Tour: Spanish Painting in the Seventeenth Century
Object 1 of 7

Long considered one of van der Hamen's best works, this still life is one of the artist's earliest experiments with multilevel arrangements. Three plinths of varying heights add interest and complexity to the composition. Repetition of shapes, especially circles, unites the disparate elements on these ledges. The pattern established by the red, open-centered earthenware jug is reinforced by the rims of other vessels, the circular wooden marzipan boxes, and even the doughnut-shaped confections. The textures of these sweets, pastries dusted with sugar and figs glistening with a sugary glaze, contrast with the angular and hard stone surfaces. They are the foods Madrid's upper classes enjoyed on honradas ocasiones.

Van der Hamen's virtuoso ability to mimic nature is evident in his treatment of the small, water-filled glass bowl, which not only casts a shadow but also refracts the light passing through it. The poet Lope da Vega, who was a member of the same educated circle as the painter, wrote two sonnets in praise of van der Hamen's work, suggesting in one that nature herself should copy his fruits and flowers.

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