“ Unlike the French phrase nature morte (literally "dead nature") or the term "still life," which is its closest equivalent in English, the Spanish term bodegón does not imply death or immobilization, but instead relates to the pantry, or bodega, where the objects pictured in these canvases were commonly kept. And like that space, the traditional bodegón was infused with humility and a sense of the everyday, though as the genre emerged during the Counter-Reformation, these qualities were often coupled with a profoundly transcendental value. In works by pioneers of the genre such as Juan Sánchez Cotán, humble fruits, vegetables, or baked goods are set against an inky black background, enabling sensations of spatial timelessness to intersect with the contradictory impressions of temporal brevity aroused by objects whose precise and minutely described materiality seems to transform them into dramatic reminders of the transience of beauty or the notion of perishability. This tension distinguishes the Spanish bodegón from the sumptuous spreads of the kitchen tables of Flanders, or the expressive burlesque of the figures appearing in Italian pictures of the same time.“
Juan Sánchez Cotán (1560–1627), Still Life with Fruits and Vegetables, ca. 1602.
Oil on canvas 69.5 x 96.5 cm