Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber

7:00 AM

Juan Sánchez Cotán, Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber, 1602

First, an admission of my immature analysis of this painting. I decided that this was a murder-suicide scene, with the cucumber as the perpetrator and the melon its helpless victim. Upon viewing the gruesome scene, the quince and the cabbage hanged themselves in grief.

Moving on.

Cotán's piece is deceivingly simplistic. His subject matter is basic, just things one would find in a pantry on an average stone slab. This technique of using items that could be found in a bodega, or a pantry or tavern, is referred to abodegón, an fancy way to describe a still-life painting depicting pantry items. 

But Cotán then broke away from this technique, his work exemplifying the emerging style of Tenebrism. Also called dramatic illumination, its invention is credited to Caravaggio but it had been used in less definitive ways by Durer. This illumination is produced by using pronounced chiaroscuro, with profound contrasts of dark and light becoming just as important as the subject matter they illuminate. 

The background is completely absent, as Cotán's subject matter taking up all of the space. Hanging on the side, the quince and the cabbage weigh down the other side of the piece so as to balance the stone wall. Details on the varied produce are deeply shadowed, with what seems like a harsh light shining upon them.The cucumber seems to extend from the piece, its dramatic shadow adding to its depth.

P.S. A quince is a pome-like fruit from a quince tree. It's closely related to apples and pears and is bright yellow when ripe. Apparently it's really good, and I'm going to get some as soon as possible.

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