Francisco de Zurbaran - Lemons, oranges and a chalice with rose petals

by Alexandra Tuschka


A still life could hardly look much "quieter" than this famous work by the Spaniard Francisco de Zurbarán. Against a pitch-black background, a few objects rise in the foreground. These are arranged on a flat, brown wooden table, the front edge of which runs the entire length parallel to the picture border.

On the left are four large lemons. Their rough surface is interspersed by the artist with some shades of green and white. In the center are some oranges in a wicker basket. Their blossoms lean down into the picture space.


Due to the numerous religious motifs and paintings of saints in the artist's ouevre, a symbolic interpretation may well be assumed. Already the strict tripartite division of the work, allows associations with the Trinity. In addition, it was quite common in the 17th century to place fruits as votive offerings in front of images of saints. A homage to the Virgin Mary is also conceivable - the rose - here thornless - is her ancestral attribute . The chalice then serves as a symbol of purity and the orange blossoms for chastity, while the lemons can be associated with Easter.


Each of the objects occupies its own sacred space next to each other. The oranges tower over the other objects in height, and the blossoms and leaves create some plasticity through a play of light and shadow.

It is the only signed and dated work by the Spaniard and probably one of his most meditative.


Francisco de Zurbaran - Lemons, oranges and a chalice with rose petals

Oil on canvas, 1633, 62.2 x 109.5 cm, Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena

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