Still Life with Ewer and Basin, Fruit, Nautilus Cup and other Objects, Willem Kalf
Oil on canvas, roughly 44 x 33 inches (111 x 84 cm); in the collection of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museo Nacional, Madrid, which has zoomable and downloadable versions of the image on their site.
This is another stunning gem by 17th century Dutch still life master Willem Kalf in the manner known as a “pronk” (ornate or ostentatious) still life — finely crafted objects even more finely painted.
The ewer (a decorative pitcher or jug) and basin are supposedly the focus of the composition; as beautiful as they are, my eye goes quickly to the cup made form the shell of a chambered nautilus, even though it’s in shadow. It’s interesting to compare it with the one in this painting.
The glasses of wine in the background behind the nautilus cup — one red, one white — are just barely discernible in the reproduction.
Not having had the pleasure of seeing the original, I don’t know if the painting is actually that dark. (I’ve noticed that many reproductions of paintings presented by museums on their websites are darker than the actual paintings, for reasons I have yet to understand.)
The museum’s page goes into some interesting background about both the painting and the objects that are its subject.
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