Bernardo Polo (active in Saragossa during the second half of the 17th Century)
Bowl of fruit with grapes, oranges, and roses, oil on canvas, 85 x 98, framed
Provenienz: Europäische private collection.
We are grateful to William Jordan for suggesting the attribution.
The present painting was, until recently, given to a corpus of works by an unknown artist refered to as the “Pseudo-Hiepes”. However following the discovery of a signed composition William Jordan was able to indentify the artist as by Bernardo Polo (see “El Pseudo-Hiepes es Bernardo Polo,” Archivo Español de Arte, LXXXII, no. 328, October - December 2009, pp. 395-403).
Bernardo Polo’s charming and highly decorative bodegón paintings, such as the present work, appear to have enjoyed great success. The repetition of motifs and the varied placement of individual elements in the artist´s work recall the working practices introduced by Juan van der Hamen in Madrid.
The major part of Polo’s oeuvre comprises of three compositional types according to Jordan. Paintings like the present one, with the depiction of a single bowl of fruit on a square, free-standing stone socle, belong to the first group. The painting of a Trencher with Melons, Apricots and Plums from a private collection signed by Polo (op. cit. p. 395, fig. 2) is also placed within this category. It is furthermore characterized by his lighting of the subject from the upper left – a typical device employed by the artist to diagonally divide the composition into two halves.
The second group consists of still lifes that are mostly composed of symmetrically arranged objects atop a stone slab cut with leaves (compare Still Life with a Vase of Flowers, a Fruit Bowl and a Wine Cooler, private collection, Barcelona, op. cit. p. 397, fig. 4). Works in which the objects have been arranged atop a cabinet belong to the third group (compare Cabinet with Sweets, Grapes and a Vase of Flowers, private collection, Madrid, op. cit. p. 401, fig. 9). In all of these works each of the individual elements is arranged so that it is viewed from the front.
The popularity of the genre of still life painting became widespread in Spain in the second quarter of the seventeenth century. Especially popular were still lifes with a small number of objects, generally food and simple objects on a table, which was stylistically different to Dutch still lifes, with their rich banquets and objects of luxury. The background is mostly neutral and dark, producing a surreal atmosphere. Unlike northern European still lifes with their plenitude and focus on sensual pleasures, Spanish still lifes have a elegant fascination created by means of their barrenness and sobriety.
Little is known about the life of Bernardo Polo. Palomino and Ceán Bermudez mention him as being a “painter of flowers and fruit after nature” working in Saragossa. He probably died around 1700.
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