Colnaghi Foundation Journal 03 - Page 39

Too many cooks…; Cerezo, Barranco, De Leito, and the kitchen still life in Madrid
Too many cooks…; Cerezo, Barranco, De Leito, and the kitchen still life in Madrid
Fig. 16 / Francisco
Barranco, Still Life with Fish,
Squid, Barrel, and Pans,
oil on canvas, 62 x 80 cm,
Private Collection.
Fig. 17 / Francisco
Barranco, Still Life with Fish,
Oysters, and Receptacles,
oil on canvas, 60 x 100 cm,
Private Collection.
The stylistic characteristics evident in the group of
paintings attributed to Francisco Barranco make him
a potential candidate for the authorship of Still Life with
Lamb, Bread, and Kitchen Utensils (see fig. 1).57 The copper
pans in these pictures are comparable to those in the
upper background of the Prado picture in terms of their
rich colour, the handling of light effects in their interiors,
and the lighting of the rims. Barranco was a master of
wet-in-wet handling of paint, and his signature motif of
dead birds was a vehicle for the display of this technique,
especially in the creation of the textures of feathers.
This is shown to particular effect in his panel paintings,
in which the wood support emphasizes the impasto of
the brushwork. The multi-directional brushwork in the
feathers of the hen of the painting in the Prado might
be seen as a consummate example of his virtuosity in
this regard. The way in which the head of the hen is
painted is not dissimilar to the birds’ heads in the works
on panel, and the feathers of its tail are close to the wings
of birds in the latter pictures, despite the difference in
size between them. The pressing of the loaded brush into
the canvas surface in the painting in the Prado creates
a double-edged mark. This effect can also be seen in
the panel pictures of Barranco, as can his technique of
scoring into wet paint – in the modelling of the onion
in the Prado picture, for instance, and the fringe of the
cloth in Still Life with Birds and Chocolate Service (see fig. 11).
Having said this, however, the richness and density of the
brushwork in the Prado still life is not to be seen to such a
degree in other pictures attributed to Barranco. In the fur
of the lamb, for instance, the interlaced brushwork and
the generous use of white lead creates a unique sticky,
creamy texture to the paint. Moreover, the atmospheric
lighting of the painting in the Prado, which gives a
relatively soft-edged appearance to the objects, is unlike
the more marked chiaroscuro of Barranco.
Still Life with Butchered Lamb, Ham, and Receptacles
(fig. 18) repeats the motifs of the butchered lamb
and copper cauldron from the Prado picture, and
adds other elements around these to create a new
composition. This work would appear to follow
the larger, more complex prototype, rather than
preceding it. An initial comparison of the common
motifs suggested that an exact transfer was not
employed; while their size is basically the same, the
halved head of mutton is slightly shorter in the
smaller picture, and the cauldron is in a different
position relative to its counterpart in the larger
work. This suggests that some basic contours or
co-ordinates from the model elements may have
been drawn on oiled papers in order to situate
these motifs in the new work, but that there was
subsequently a considerable degree of improvisation
at the painting stage.
From examination of the work, it is painted
on a warm reddish ground, which is typical of
preparations used for paintings on canvas in Madrid
in the middle of the century. This can be seen at
many points where the paint is thin, such as the
front ledge, and in the background. Observation in
raking light shows a bold underpainting or bosquejo,
which is particularly clear in the cuts of meat, the
slab and hams, and the interior of the cauldron.
Forms are modelled directly in fluid paint, worked
wet-in-wet, and with no discernible use of glazes.
This relatively economical approach relates the
painting to those of Cerezo, De Leito, and some
paintings by Barranco. While the handling is
rich and versatile in itself, it is more summary in
execution in comparison with the source elements in
the picture in the Prado.


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