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James W Singer 25 September 2023
min Read14 August 2022
Fede Galizia’s beautiful A Glass Compote with Peaches, Jasmine Flowers, Quinces and a Grasshopper is one of Italy’s first-ever still life paintings. Galizia was a pioneer in the still life genre, but few know her name or art today.
Fede Galizia (1578-1630) was a young prodigy who first achieved recognition at the age of 12. Although better known for her portraits and religious paintings, still lifes are her greatest contribution to art history. In fact, she helped to shape this genre well before the more-famous still life painters we know today. Her paintings are among the very earliest known still lifes by any Italian artist. Indeed, this one probably dates from the first decade of the 17th century. However, historically, Galizia has not received the credit she deserves. This is possibly because she painted fewer than 20 still lifes and rarely signed them.
A Glass Compote with Peaches, Jasmine Flowers, Quinces and a Grasshopper is one of at least five nearly identical Galizia still life paintings of the same arrangement. All have the same peaches, quinces, and jasmine flowers around the same glass compote in similar arrangements. However, this particular version is the only one to include an insect. It has been identified variously as a grasshopper or locust.
In addition to being an effective little touch of life, the insect is almost certainly symbolic of time, death, or sin. It could be a vanitas element, referencing death through the Biblical plague of locusts. However, its exact meaning remains elusive.
In general, Fede Galizia still life paintings impress with their highly-naturalistic details. Of particular note is their capture of textures, and the dramatic contrast of luminous fruit against dark backgrounds.
On January 30, 2019, Sotheby’s sold A Glass Compote with Peaches, Jasmine Flowers, Quinces, and a Grasshopper during an evening sale of master paintings, held in New York. The title of the sale was The Female Triumphant. Galizia’s painting appeared alongside works by Angelica Kauffman, Elizabeth Louise Vigée-Le Brun, and other 16th-19th century women artists. By heavily publicizing this event, Sotheby’s also helped to promote all these great women artists. The publicity must have worked because Galizia’s painting sold for over $2 million. So, it seems that people are starting to better appreciate this artist’s beautiful innovative naturalism.
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