There's no background here, no gradation of color, no obstacles to the handful of objects in the foreground. Just a velvety, warm, black surface extending to embrace the fruits, flowers and porcelain in fluid, graceful shadow. It is simple, yet rich. It doesn't overwhelm, but it has depth and power – a perfect balance. This still life was painted by the 17th century Spanish painter Francisco Zubaran and perhaps only he could have manipulated such a contentious color so effortlessly.
The objects in this still life humble. Lemons, oranges, a flower, a porcelain cup. They could be the favored possessions of any Spanish peasant family. But the simplicity stops there. The spacing of these things are a mathematical reckoning. Each grouping is its own galaxy, with its own axis, its own living geometry, its own starless sky.
There is solitude and solemnity here. Quiet reverberates around each object – a vibrnt atmosphere. The little tray holding the lemons reflects their cadmium image like a still and silver pool. The sea pink was placed on the edge of the saucer with such care, it might have been a religious icon. The leaves crest the group of oranges like a Roman consul's laurel wreath. Motionless, yet stirring with beauty and meaning, these objects are a blaze of silent glory. The composition is an intellectual exercise, and example of stunning precision. The painting's serent asceticism challenges the richness of color and detail – and portrays their tranquil confrontation.
Just as shadow threatens to take over, at the same time it highlights the prey it is about to envelop. This is the essence of chiaroscuro, using the dark to emphasize the light that is in danger of flickering out. But the candle remains lit, and it does not curse this magnificent darkness.
Never was life so still, and never was stillness so alive.