Although still life painting during the first half of the 17th century in France tended to present a serene intimate depiction of "silent life," the genre evolved at the beginning of Louis XIV’s reign. Straightforward compositions often based on themes of Vanity with distinctive forms influenced by Northern Schools gradually gave way to lively decorative lively compositions using broad handling to depict refined objects.
References to Italian baroque painting multiplied in French artwork as new influences appeared. In the mid 17th century, Jacques Hupin was among the painters who lived and worked for a while in Italy. In 1649, the artist was registered in Rome in the parish of San Lorenzo in Lucina. Thus he lived near Claude Lorrain. During this stay, he was certainly in contact with Roman masters of still life, such as Francesco Noletti, called Il Maltese, and Benedetto Fieravino. Certain works formerly attributed to Noletti (Fine Arts Museums of Caen, Carcassonne, and Tours) have now been attributed to Hupin. In a similar baroque vein, the French painter enjoyed the same taste as the Maltese painter for Oriental fabrics and richly ornamented precious metals. Hupin’s compositions also fall in the tradition of the Provencal artist Meiffren Conte.
The horizontal lay-out of our carefully composed, balanced still life is typical of Jacques Hupin’s work, as is the way the elements are organized on a cloth characterized by heavy deep pleats. In the left corner, an iridescently colored parrot is seen in profile against an olive-green drapery. Balanced on the edge of the table are a silver platter and silver-gilt fruit dish: grapes, pomegranates, apples, figs, plums, and apricots. A similar composition can be seen in Grapes, Peaches and Pomegranates on a Pewter Platter by Hupin (Christie’s Sale, London, April 19th, 2002). Here, transparencies and acid colors evoke Paul Liégeois’ style.
The artist completed this decor with several richly chiseled gold and silver plated dishes. In the second half of the 17th century, daily utensils were gradually replaced by veritable art objects which reflected contemporary taste for precious items. Two ewers which were among Hupin’s favorite objects can be seen in this composition; they also appear in his Still Life on a Cloth (Louvre Museum, FR 1972.38).
C. SALVI, D’après nature. La Nature morte en France au XVIIe siècle, Tournai : la Renaissance du Livre, 2000.
F. PORZIO, La natura morta in Italia, Milano : Electa, 1989, tome II, pp. 768-769.
J. BOUSQUET, Recherches sur le séjour des peintres français à Rome au XVIIe siècle, Montpellier : ALPHA, 1980.