Still life

Baltazar Gomes Figueirac. 1650

Grão Vasco National Museum

Grão Vasco National Museum
Viseu, Portugal

Baltazar Gomes Figueira was one of the most notable personalities in the world of 17th-century Iberian painting. The father of the famous painter Josefa de Óbidos, he was born and died in Óbidos.
This work involves a combination of three themes, arranged in a limited space and immersed in an intense penumbra, being illuminated from the left.
The light in this painting is intense and contrasting in the way it defines the objects situated in the partially shaded areas.
Theological virtues are represented through the four fish and the Eucharistic grapes laid on the table. A partridge, a canary, a green shrike and a sparrow have been laid out on the creased tablecloth, in an allusion to man’s bad habits and vices.
To the right, on the tablecloth are the regional sweets, as well as a clay bowl and a carefully executed footed silver salver, illustrating the human vanities in a refined and sophisticated way.
The delicacy of the brushwork, made explicit in the shaping of the pulsating light that falls over the fish and birds, the regional sweets and the clays, in the transparency of certain details, as well as in the detail of the drops of water at the bottom of the table top, near the fish, all reveal the work of an artist who used his paintbrush with great precision, being seduced by the transparencies of certain features and cultivating elegance through the observation of objects. In the context of the Portuguese painting of still lifes in the 18th century, he forged his reputation through the impressiveness of his artistic programme, the powerful texture of his painting and his systematic representation of forms. This is the work of a naturalist artist endowed with a symbolic strength, whose paintings brought him closer to the Castilian universe of Van der Hamen and the Sevillian painters Francisco and Juan de Zurbarán.
The whole scene is composed of thin transparent layers that accentuate the magic of the predominant chiaroscuro, revealing a certain influence of Castilian models.


  • Title: Still life
  • Creator: Baltazar Gomes Figueira
  • Date Created: c. 1650
  • Physical Location: Grâo Vasco Nacional Museum, Viseu, Portugal
  • Physical Dimensions: 39.7 cm x 160 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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