National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Still Life with Fruit and Carafe Pensionante del Saraceni (painter)
French (?), active c. 1610/1620
Still Life with Fruit and Carafe, c. 1610/1620
oil on canvas
overall: 50.4 x 71.6 cm (19 13/16 x 28 3/16 in.) framed: 71.1 x 92.1 x 5.4 cm (28 x 36 1/4 x 2 1/8 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1939.1.159
On View
From the Tour: The Emergence of New Genres
Object 1 of 6

Long thought to have been painted by Caravaggio, this still life shares his naturalistic arrangement of foodstuffs, placed close to the front of the picture plane. Here, however, the painter has used light to soften the forms of ripe fruit—edges of the highlighted apple on the pewter plate seem to blur and dissolve. This is characteristic of works painted by an artist dubbed the Pensionante del Saraceni, literally, the boarder of Saraceni. Carlo Saraceni was one of the many painters in Rome who were heavily influenced by Caravaggio.

A slight elevation in viewpoint reduces the formality of this composition, but it nevertheless evinces the strong sense of geometry underlying its organization—stronger than in Saraceni’s or Caravaggio’s own paintings. Notice, for example, the repetition of round form in the melons, plates, and swelling wine carafe. This insistent structure, together with a certain elusive and undefinable “melancholy,” has suggested to some scholars that the painter was French. Saraceni was known as a francophile and is documented as having accommodated at least one French artist in his house—hence the name Pensionante. Some dozen paintings are thought to be by the same hand but the artist’s identity remains unknown.

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