Henri Fantin-Latour was a student of the famous painter Gustave Courbet and, like him, is considered one of the realists. Courbet felt that, in painting, one should only depict existing things. He believed that abstraction, non-existent subjects did not belong in a painting. This still life is indeed very concrete, straightforward and simple. However, the background, the composition of the elements on the white tablecloth and the subdued colours give the work a stillness and seriousness that far exceeds reality. Unlike his teacher Fantin-Latour also saw a clear connection between colour and poetry, which ‘creates a thousand things that the eye cannot see’, and he compared this poetry to the evocative power of music. He wanted his paintings to be a symphony of colours, which would sound different to everyone. In order to achieve this he used a lot of warm colours against a darker background, making the colours, with all their tints, even more eye-catching.
Although Fantin-Latour was very successful with his fruit and floral still lifes, he preferred to paint portraits, allegories and musical themes. For him, still lifes were primarily a way to earn money, but it is in fact these works that would bring him lasting fame.