About this artwork
This work, the earliest European still life in the Art Institute’s collection, was painted by a leading Spanish practitioner of this new genre. It employs Juan Sánchez Cotán’s signature format: commonplace edibles placed in a shallow, niche-like embrasure with an impenetrable, dark background evoking the larders in Spanish homes used to keep food fresh. Some of the artist’s still lifes contain few objects, while in others, such as this one, the recess is filled. The objects are painstakingly rendered, and their placement seems mathematically exact. The hanging quince and game birds are arranged not perpendicular to the bottom edge of the painting, but on a barely perceptible diagonal. Further enlivening the composition is the strong light that sweeps over the still life and creates a dramatic contrast of light and shade, of precise realism and abstract form. After 1603 the artist stopped creating these austere and powerful images. Sánchez Cotán left his successful artistic career in Toledo to join the Carthusian order as a lay brother at the Charterhouse of Granada. Thereafter, his work consisted solely of idealized religious images.
- Juan Sánchez Cotán
- Still Life with Game Fowl
- Oil on canvas
- 67.8 × 88.7 cm (26 11/16 × 34 15/16 in. )
- Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leigh B. Block