Colnaghi Foundation Journal 03 - Page 40

Too many cooks…; Cerezo, Barranco, De Leito, and the kitchen still life in Madrid
This might be expected in the case of an artist
who was copying himself. The multi-directional
brushwork and impasto of the cabbage stalk resemble
the handling of the Prado picture. However, the
broad, sweeping brushwork which creates the light
effects in the hammered interior of the cauldron
is unlike the careful dabbing of the brush in the
prototype. The butchered lamb’s head is painted
thinly over what appears to be a local optically-light
ground. The red hues used to describe the meat and
white of the fat are juxtaposed on this surface, rather
than integrated, in a kind of technical shorthand
relative to the handling of the prototype; in the latter,
the wet-in-wet brushwork is more densely worked in
order to achieve the requisite chromatic range and
coherence in the modelling of the forms. However,
the smaller picture is far from being a pedestrian
derivation of the Prado version. Its technique is
characterized by the speed, confidence, and vigour
of the brushwork. The artist has interpreted the
handling of the prototype with bravura. This can be
seen, for instance, in the bold white impasto used to
describe the fat of the meat. An exceptional feature
in the context of the loose handling of the painting is
the carefully painted detail of the reflection of a sash
window in the eye of the lamb.
Still Life with Butchered Lamb, Ham, and Receptacles is close
to the style of Barranco’s Still Life with Sheep’s Head, Birds,
Wine Cooler, and Receptacles (see fig. 14), even if the former
is painted more thinly. Characteristic drawn lines in black
are evident to the naked eye in the modelling of the
receptacles, and a distinctive way of painting highlights
on the lips of vessels can be seen in both works. There
are also some similarities in approach between Still Life
with Butchered Lamb, Ham, and Receptacles and the works
of Andrés De Leito, as can be seen, for instance, in
the stringy white highlights on the vessel in the centre
background. This raises the possibility, once again,
of artists knowing one another’s practices in shared
workshops. However, the motif of the hams atop a
chopping block in the picture discussed here is painted
with daubs of viscous pigment, while a similar motif in
De Leito’s picture in the Instituto Amattler (see fig. 4)
is painted with the brush dragged through thin paint.
The handling of the paper packet of spices, probably
pepper, in these two works is also very different.
Still Life with Butchered Lamb, Ham, and Receptacles and Still
Too many cooks…; Cerezo, Barranco, De Leito, and the kitchen still life in Madrid
Life with Lamb, Bread, and Kitchen Utensils in the Prado were
evidently the sources for a pair of still lifes which have
been attributed to Mateo Cerezo.58 One of the latter
quotes verbatim the main theme of the left foreground
from Still Life with Butchered Lamb, Ham, and Receptacles – the
grouped motifs of butchered meat, cabbage, mortar and
pestle, and copper cauldron – and adds a green-glaze jug
from another source, yet to be identified. The pendant
picture quotes verbatim the motif of the cured hams
on a slab from Still Life with Butchered Lamb, Ham, and
Receptacles, along with the arrangement of copper vessels
in the upper background of Still Life with Lamb, Bread,
and Kitchen Utensils in the Prado, adding a squid in the
left foreground to create a new still life. In the transfer
of motifs from the prototypes to their new homes there
are some minor changes. A difference in the sizes of the
copied elements relative to the source pictures, as well as
an evident degree of distortion in them, would appear
to rule out the use of mechanical transfer techniques.
The deformation of the head of mutton relative to the
prototype suggests a freehand copying process. This
pair of derivative pictures is stylistically different from
both of the source works. Even though the textures
of the borrowed motifs are imitated well, there is a
noticeable abbreviation of the modelling and the details
of the forms. This artist evidently had access to both
of the prototypes in order to cannibalize them for two
new works: the space where this is most likely to have
occurred is a shared workshop.59
When the present writer began to study Spanish still
life for his doctoral thesis in 1981, many artists still
lacked a clearly defined corpus of works. The art
historian was duty bound to undertake fundamental
documentary research and to engage in attribution
questions. If nothing else, this article testifies to the
continued relevance of that approach today, as well as
its pitfalls and the necessary caution required. If the
attributions tentatively offered here were to be accepted
by the scholarly community, it would mean that one of
the major still-life paintings of the Spanish seventeenth
century would pass from its current anonymity to join
the works of an artist about whom we know next to
nothing. This would be a contribution to knowledge of
sorts, but perhaps more importantly it would show just
how much there is still to learn in the field into which
Jennifer Fletcher directed her student all those years ago.
Fig. 18 / Francisco
Barranco, Still Life with
Butchered Lamb, Ham, and
Receptacles, oil on canvas,
82 x 106 cm, Private


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