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Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose


Submitted By davidray89
Words 740
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Norton Simon Museum

"Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose", 1633

My Introduction to Art summer class requires a few visits to local museums. The first museum we visited as a class was Norton Simon Museum, which is located in the city of Pasadena, CA. We visited the Norton Simon Museum on Saturday July 13, 2013. It was a hot summer day; this was a perfect day to visit a museum. Most of the class took the same shuttle bus to the museum. When we arrived at the museum we were allowed to explore / admire the cool art pieces on our own. It was a really beautiful museum and they had a big collection. I think you can’t really have enough with one visit. I plan on making future trips to this museum to explore all the art pieces and learn more about the pieces.

The piece that got my attention was “Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose” by Francisco de Zurbaran. This piece was painted on an oil canvas and measures 24 ½ X 43 1/8 In. This is the only still life Zurbaran signed in his life, at the lower right corner. In the painting, we can see a plate with citrons (not lemons), a basket of oranges and another plate with a cup, next to a rose.

The artist used many elements of form in this painting. The elements of form that I noticed were Color, Texture, and Light. The Artist portraits these objects in a realistic way, these can be noticed in the reflection of the citrons on the silver plate, in the details of the basket, in the soft reflection of this basket on the table and in the amount of textures in the composition. Also, the play of light and shadows is subtle but profound. The color of the fruits, pop up and contrast against the black background and the dark tone of the wood from the table.

The Principles of Design that I noticed were Proportion, Scale, Rhythm, Balance, Directional Forces and Contrast. The arrangement of the orange leaves creates a rhythm of light and shadow. This painting is presented within a small space but makes the objects in the painting stand out. The Color used for the fruits Contrast against the background and the dark tone from the table. An example of directional forces is the table, the edges of the table move your attention towards the silver plate then to the leaves of the oranges and then towards the Citrons. The fruits, rose and the silver plate make the proportion of the painting. I feel the painting is balanced because the objects are about the same size and the colors together make the painting seem real. All these examples show the deep knowledge of the artist on the oil technique. All of these elements of form and principles of design combined complete the painting and make it a masterpiece.

This painting meant something unique to Spanish Catholics in the 17th century; the humble objects portrayed here had an important religious meaning. The placement of the three motifs, for example, would have been understood as an allusion to the Holy Trinity. The painting has also been interpreted as homage to the Virgin, with the oranges, their blossoms, and the cup of water symbolizes her purity. The thorn less rose would symbolize divine love. It seems that the citrons refer to fidelity. There is no source that can confirm that this was Zurbaran’s intention, the x-ray performed to the canvas proved that the artist also painted a plate of caramel iced sweet potatoes, treat in that time. The religious interpretation of the work is different and insane. Nowadays most people believe the intention of the artist was, simply just to portrait something beautiful.

Francisco De Zurbarán was a Spanish artist of the 17th century who devoted himself, mainly, to the portrait of religious motifs and still lifes. Although his style is more rigid and less experimental, his use of the technique of chiaroscuro made him to be nicknamed as the “TheSpanish Caravaggio". His work "Still life with lemons, oranges, and a rose" represents his maximum achievement in this kind of painting. A very cool thing I noticed was the images of the oranges/ basket is used for the information brochure for the Norton Simon Museum.

References 1. 2. 3.

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