Still Life
(Antonio Ponce)


One aspect of Ponce’s activity that was doubtless inspired by his mentor, Van der Hamen, was the painting of independent flowerpieces. Numerous examples – some rectangular in format and others octagonal – were cited in the inventory of the older artist’s studio, and many of those were described as unfinished, an indication not only that they were indeed his own paintings but that this Flemish-derived aspect of his activity may have come late in his career. Although many fruit still lifes by Van der Hamen that depict flowers are known, no independent flowerpiece by him has yet been discovered. In Ponce’s case, we have several signed or securely attributed flower still lifes which give us a clear idea of his style.

Perhaps the best known of Ponce’s works in this vein is the Vase of Flowers in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Strasbourg, which is signed and dated 1650. This work and others like it, unsigned, are markedly archaic for their date and may give us some idea of the flowerpieces Van der Hamen was painting twenty years earlier.

The pair of small flowerpieces catalogued here, while not signed, bear the unmistakable hallmarks of Ponce’s style: the crisp use of line that elegantly silhouettes each form against the luminous, grey background; the cool, violet-tinged light; the smooth facture with its sparing but skilled use of impasto to define the petals of only certain flowers and to contrast them with the smoothness of others; and the elegant but ingenuous symmetry of petals and leaves fallen upon the grey stone plinths.

Coming as close to Fantin-Latour as any seventeenth-century flower painting could, these are probably, among all of Ponce’s works, those that appeal most to the modern eye. They are certainly one of those welcome instances of a minor artist surpassing himself, and they rank among the most beautiful of all Spanish flower paintings.

42.3 x 25.3 cm.
Oil on canvas

Private Collection, Spain;
Caylus, Galería de Arte, Madrid;
Private Collection.


Galería Caylus, Madrid, El gusto español. Antiguos maestros, 1992, pp. 78-81, ill. P. 79;
William B. Jordan and Peter Cherry, Spanish Still Life from Velázquez to Goya, exh. cat., London (The National Gallery), 1995, p. 68, fig. 50.

Historical Period
Baroque - 1600-1720
Still Life - Floral
1997-An Eye on Nature: Spanish Still Life Painting from Sanchez Cotan to Goya.
Hard and soft back catalogue of the Exhibition held in New York., 153 pages, fully illustrated with 23 colour plates and 65 black and white text illustrations. Forward by Patrick Matthiesen. Catalogue entries by Dr. William B. Jordan. £30 or $40 inc. p.& p.

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