Still Life with Game Fowl, Vegetables, and Fruit

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Juan Sanchez Cotan, Still Life with Game Fowl, Vegetables, and Fruit, 1602
By EMMA SHAPIRO

In the 1600s Spanish art began to shift from the idealistic El Greco to a more naturalistic style. El Greco began the effort to emulate nature in his religious paintings, but apprentices and observing artists took naturalism to the next level. Juan Sanchez Cotan painted several still lifes of assortments of game, vegetables, and fruit, contrasted against a black background. He sets the objects in the same space, aiming to separate them as individuals. Although they lie within the same plane, Sanchez Cotan's pattern of naming his paintings puts an emphasis on individual objects. Sanchez Cotan entitled one of his most famous paintings Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cabbage, as it portrays one of each. Still Life with Game Fowl, Vegetables, and Fruit contains items from all three of these categories, but Sanchez Cotan fails to specify. Sanchez Cotan's careful emulation of everyday objects force the viewer to contemplate unreligious items and identify the individuality of each form. Paintings like such characterize his work and call for his recognition as the creator of the prototype for Spanish still-lifes.

A horizontal light brightens the surface of the objects and creates a shadow behind each one. Sanchez Cotan's realistically deep shadowing creates for an intimate yet separated, intense work. Sanchez Cotan's portrayal of simple and slightly unattractive everyday objects beautifies them. His ability to do so emphasizes the superiority of simple things over riches. During the period when Sanchez Cotan worked, society continued to glorify the wealthy and ruling class, and the richness of religion, in most paintings. Sanchez Cotan abandoned the usual subject matter to bring the vitality of conventional objects to life.

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