Colnaghi Foundation Journal 03 - Page 30

Too many cooks…; Cerezo, Barranco, De Leito, and the kitchen still life in Madrid
Andrés De Leito invoked these typologies in a number
of idiosyncratic genre paintings; two show servants
with food beset by strange men (figs. 8 & 9) and a
pair of pictures gives a gendered dimension to the old
still-life theme of meat and fish – one painting shows
a male figure with fowl, gamebirds, and ham, while
the other shows a woman preparing soaked salted fish
(pescado abadejo remojado) (figs. 4 & 5).
Fig. 6 / Ignacio Arias,
Kitchen Still Life with Cuts
of Meat, Asparagus, and
Kitchen Utensils, signed,
oil on canvas, 115 x
145 cm, Madrid, Museo
Nacional del Prado.
Another relevant example in this context is the kitchen
Still Life with Cuts of Meat, Asparagus, and Kitchen Utensils by
the Madrid painter Ignacio Arias (ca. 1618-1653), which
is likely to have been painted in the 1640s (fig. 6).31 Here,
uncooked foodstuffs, pots and pans, a mortar and pestle,
and two elegant glass goblets, with a bubble of blue glass
in the centre of each, are arranged on stepped masonry
ledges. The latter structures might have existed in kitchens
of the time. The distance from which objects have
been represented perhaps more closely approximates
to the experience of seeing such things in these spaces.
However, this compositional format ultimately derives
from the later works of Van der Hamen and is an aesthetic
stratagem which allows Arias to itemize objects of
different surface textures across the entire pictorial field.
Too many cooks…; Cerezo, Barranco, De Leito, and the kitchen still life in Madrid
and pestle. These are recurrent objects in the repertoire
of props in this kind of picture and are also to be seen in
the aforementioned painting by Arias. A routine display
of painterly skill in representing the inner surfaces of
metal pans, noted above, can be seen here too.
This is betrayed by the anomalous presence of the glass
goblets. A display of skill which is a topos of the kitchen
piece is evident in the metal receptacles having been
propped up to show the light effects on their inside
surfaces. Filling the large boiling vessel at the left with
water gives added value for the expectant viewer.
Antonio Palomino praised the still-life paintings of
Antonio de Pereda (1611-1678) in his biography of the
artist and thus cemented his reputation in this field
for the history of art in Spain. However, this activity
is mentioned almost as an afterthought at the end
of the biography and in generic terms; his still lifes
are somewhat disparagingly called bodegoncillos (little
bodegones) and none is described individually.32 Today,
Pereda’s role as an innovator in the kitchen still life is
based on the pendant pictures from 1651 – Still Life with
Vegetables and Still Life with Fruits – in the Museu Nacional
de Arte Antiga, Lisbon, and associated variants. In the
works in Portugal, a dense accumulation of objects
occupies a single ledge and allows a full display of the
artist’s accuracy in descriptive representation. The
picture with vegetables includes pans of copper and
brass, ceramic and copper jugs, glassware and a mortar
Fig. 7 / Mateo Cerezo, Still
Life with Fish, Bread, and a
Copper Pan, oil on canvas,
60.5 x 83.5 cm, Private
Perhaps Pereda’s still lifes inspired the short-lived Mateo
Cerezo (1637-1666) to paint kitchen pieces. In his
biography of Cerezo, Palomino praised his bodegoncillos
in the same formulaic terms as those of Pereda and
added that they were only rivalled in Madrid by the
works of Andrés De Leito.33 Cerezo’s reputation in
the field is today based on the pair of paintings in
the Academia de San Carlos in Mexico mentioned at
the beginning of this article, one of which is signed
and dated 166[4] (see figs. 2 & 3). The fact that the
style of these paintings is not consistent with Cerezo’s
figure paintings is not surprising, given the different
representational rationales which underpinned
the genres of still life and narrative. Despite their
importance, these still lifes have been rarely exhibited
outside Mexico and are known to most art historians
in the form of photographs of variable quality.34 The
painting of meat articulates the theme of the kitchen
still life particularly well; ingredients for a stew are
shown as if these had just been brought from market
in the wicker shopping basket. Cerezo records the
surface textures and details of each element with
viscous, carefully worked paint in a technique inspired
by Pereda. The everyday subject matter is dramatized
by a dark environment – though surely now all the
more gloomy for the condition of the painting – and
strong contrasts of light and shade. Sparks flying from
the flames of the cooking fire distinguish this work from
others in terms of its painterly ambition.
These two works by Cerezo remain the touchstones
for the attribution of other still lifes to the artist. Two
fish pieces, Still Life with Fish, Bread, and a Copper Pan
and Still Life with Fish and a Slice of Hake, bear remains
of an inscription on each which has been read as the
signature of Cerezo.35 However, it is difficult to see
stylistic similarities between these and his still lifes in
Mexico. In Cerezo’s Still Life with Fish, Bread, and Utensils
(see fig. 3), the bold highlights of the white cloth give
its fold configuration lucid structure, and the surface
of the bread is objectively described with thick paint.
Equivalent details in one of the pair of fish pieces (fig. 7),


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