Still life suspended in animation

fray juan sanchez cotanSpanish Baroque painter and pioneer of realism, Fray Juan Sanchez Cotán was born on June 25, 1560 at Orgaz, La Mancha and studied at Toledo under little known Mannerist style painter Blas del Prado who was famous for his still life paintings.  Thus Cotán managed to transition the artistic influence from Mannerism to Baroque. Stylistically he also falls within the school of El Escorial.

Cotán began his artistic career by painting altarpieces and other religious works. For approximately 20 years he pursued a successful career in Toledo as an artist; patronized by the city’s aristocracy, painting religious scenes, portraits and still lifes.

On August 10, 1603, Cotán (who was then in his 40’s) closed his workshop in Toledo; renounced his former life and entered the Castilian Carthusian monastery Santa Maria de El Paular.  In 1612 he was sent to the Granada Charterhouse, where he decided to become a monk; and in the following year he entered the Carthusian monastery at Granada as a lay-brother.

  • Cotán became a prolific religious painter whose peak work emerged in 1617 which involved his interpretation of a cycle of eight great narrative paintings which he painted for the cloister of the Granada Monastery.
  • Cotán’s stature in the art of Spanish still life art (known as bodegón), rests on his interpretation of a few simple fruits or vegetables; some of which hang from a fine string at different levels (which was a preservation method used at the time).
  • His influence on painting fruit and vegetables may stem from the Carthusian tenet that monks ate a vegetarian diet; however, some of his works also contained game birds.
  • Cotán died on September 8, 1627 at the Carthusian monastery at Granada.

Image above is: Bodegón (Sp. for “Still Life“) aka  Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber, ca 1602;  San Diego Museum of Art.

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