Canvases like this one earned Van der Hamen his reputation as the greatest Spanish still-life painter of the seventeenth century, when that form was revived as a worthy subject in and of itself rather than as an adjunct to a symbolic or narrative work. Concerned simply with the harmonious arrangement of objects and the accurate representation of texture and light, Van der Hamen established the ringlike stoneware bottle as the center of the composition around which other circles and spheres play. Marzipan boxes foreshortened into ovals, spherical jars of honey and preserved cherries, a circular tray of round, sugared donuts, serpentine cakes, and plump, glazed figs — delicacies found on the refined tables of the aristocracy in Spain — contrast with the geometric severity of the setting. The artist arranged the objects on stepped stone ledges, thus varying their distances from the light source. Braided straw, wood, terra cotta, and crystal are masterfully described. These carefully rendered textures reach a pinnacle in the water-filled glass finger bowl that casts a shadow and, at the same time, reflects the light. The calculated distribution of a single color, red in various tones, weaves the forms into a harmonious whole whose simplicity, at first glance, belies its careful structure.
lower right: Juan vanderHamen i Leon / fat 1627
Possibly Diego de Messía Felípez de Guzmán, Marquès de Leganés, Madrid, 1655. Private collection, Florence, by 1950. (Victor Spark, New York), at least 1952 to 1954. (David M. Koetser Gallery, New York, London, and Zurich); purchased 1955 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1961 to NGA.
- La Nature morte de l'antiquité à nos jours, Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris, 1952, no. 72, pl. 28.
- Spanish Still Life in the Golden Age 1600-1650, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth; The Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, 1985, no. 17, color pl. 17.
- Spanish Still Life from Velázquez to Goya, The National Gallery, London, 1995, no. 13, repro.
- El Bodegón Español [De Zurbarán a Picasso], Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 1999-2000, no. 12, repro.
- El Alma de España [The Soul of Spain], The Albuquerque Museum, 2005, no. 21, repro.
- El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, 2008, no. 63, repro.
- In the Presence of Things: Four Centuries of European Still Life Painting. Part One: 17th-18th Centuries, Fundaçäo Calouste Gulbenkian, Exhibition Gallery, Lisbon, 2010, no. 28, repro.
- Longhi, Roberto. "Un momento importante nella storia della `Natura Morta'." Paragone 1 (1950): 34-39, pl. 16.
- Gwynne-Jones, Allan. Introduction to Still-Life. London, 1954: 66-67, no. 59.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Colllection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation 1951-56. Introduction by John Walker, text by William E. Suida and Fern Rusk Shapley. National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1956: 104, no. 37, repro.
- Walker, John. "The Nation's Newest Old Masters." The National Geographic Magazine 110, no. 5 (November 1956): color repro. 641, 646.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 126, as Still Life.
- Gaya Nuño, Juan Anotonio. La pintura española fuera de España; historia y catàlogo. Madrid, 1958: 209, no. 1454.
- Kubler, George, and Martin Soria. Art and Architecture in Spain and Portugal and Their American Dominions, 1500-1800. Baltimore, 1959: 235, pl. 122a.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 272, repro., as Still Life.
- Soria, Martin. "Notas sobre algunos bodegones españoles del siglo XVII." Archivo Español de Arte y Arqueologia 32 (1959): 273-280.
- Evans, Grose. Spanish Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1960 (Booklet Number Ten in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 22, color repro., as Still Life.
- Jordan, William B. "Juan van der Hamen y León: A Madrilenian Still-Life Painter." Marysas 12 (1964-1965): 52-59, fig. 16.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 66, as Still Life.
- Jordan, William B. "Juan van der Hamen y León." Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1967: 333, no. 16, fig. 34.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 58, repro., as Still Life.
- Bergström, Ingvar. Maestros españoles de bodegones y floreros. Madrid, 1970: 36.
- Angulo Iñiguez, Diego. Pintura española del siglo XVII. Ars Hispaniae, 15. Madrid, 1971: 29.
- Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E. "Caravaggio y los Caravaggistas en la pintura española." In Colloquio sul tema Caravaggio e i Caravaggeschi. Rome, 1974: 57-85, fig. 12.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 172, repro., as Still Life.
- Eisler, Colin. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools Excluding Italian. Oxford, 1977: 206-207, fig. 202.
- Held, Jutta. "Verzicht und Zeremoniell: zu Stilleben von Sánchez Cotán und van der Hamen." Stilleben in Europa. Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte. Munster, 1979-1980: 390-394, repro. 391.
- Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E. Pintura española de bodegones y floreros. Exh. cat. Prado, Madrid, 1983: 42, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 247, no. 311, color repro., as Still Life.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 198, repro., as Still Life
- Brown, Jonathan, and Richard G. Mann. Spanish Paintings of the Fifteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1990: 84-87, color repro. 85.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 83, repro.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: v, 152-153, 166-167, no. 127, color repros.
- Cherry, Peter. Luis Meléndez: Still-Life Painter. Madrid, 2006: 95, 96, fig. 78.
- Rosenberg, Pierre. Only in America: One Hundred Paintings in American Museums Unmatched in European Collections. Milan, 2006: 86-87, 236, 239, color fig.
The support is a medium-fine weight, plain-weave fabric which has been lined to a plain-weave, double-threaded support. A thin red ground is applied overall, over which the paint is applied in thin, opaque rich-paste layers. Although the paint is worked in a wet-in-wet technique to create smooth tonal transitions, the artist uses low striated brush strokes, giving the surface a delicately textured unity. The painting is moderately abraded overall, particularly in the dark background, and the impasto is flattened. Minute spots of retouch, applied over the abrasion in the background, have become discolored and light. The painting was relined, cleaned, and treated in 1955.