Still life with salmon, lemon and containers by Luis Egidio Meléndez

Still life with salmon, lemon and containers by Luis Egidio Meléndez
Still life with salmon, lemon and containers by Luis Egidio Meléndez

Luis Egidio Meléndez (1716 – 1780) we can consider him the great painter of still lifes of the 18th century in Spain. With works such as the one shown here, or others equally remarkable such as the Still life of sea breams and oranges, he becomes the best heir to Zurbarán's still lifes.


Still life with salmon, lemon and containers by Luis E. Meléndez

And this artist was truly a prodigy of technique, a perfect master of brushes to know how to create textures of the most varied elements or objects, from fruits or fish cuts like the one we see here to crockery, in which we can easily identify the ceramic or metallic materials in which the originals are made. An ability that was almost innate in him, but that reached absolute mastery over the years, as we see here, since the still life with salmon, lemon and containers is a mature work, dating from 1772.

Somehow this specialization in still life betrays the craftsmanship spirit that Meléndez had in painting, since he came from a family of painters. That yes, of specialized painters, since his father stood out as a miniaturist and his uncle as a portraitist.

On the other hand, Luis E. Meléndez opted for still lifes, after trying different genres. And even he wasn't even his first choice, since he didn'tthere are still lifes of his dated before 1760.

Precisely that year he began a long series of still lifes for the Palace of Aranjuez, to which this painting belongs, which is now kept in thel Prado Museum in Madrid. In this series of still lifes, the painter wanted to make a great sampler of the foods of Spain, or as he himself said, "an amusing cabinet with all the kinds of foodstuffs that the Spanish climate produces." Some paintings that, by the way, today are scattered throughout large museums around the world, and in which it is seen that there is always something that stands out. In this case it is the salmon, and the rest of the things it represents revolve around it, which gives each image great unity.

In all of the painter's still lifes we are shown with an artist devoted to his craft and it can be seen that he always did them after a previous study in which he reflected on the composition, colors and light of each image. There is no precipitation, improvisation or frivolity, something highly valued professionally, but which has not favored him in the face of artistic criticism and historians, since he is usually defined as a precise painter but without poetry. However, lately Luis E. Meléndez is a somewhat more considerate painter, and not only is artistic creation subject to the fashions of each era, the same thing happens with criticism.

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