Margate Shell Grotto
Juan de Zurbarán
Still Life with Fruit and Goldfinch, ca. 1639-40
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona
Juan de Zurbarán (1620-1649), was a Spanish Baroque painter. He was born in Llerena, Badajoz, the son of Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664), and joined in the workshop that his father owned in Seville, with which it is likely they collaborated on different paintings, including the Still Life with Jug and Cups. The parental influence is evident in his work, but also his style reflects Dutch, Lombard and Neapolitan influences. He primarily painted still life genre. Socially he was somewhat pretentious, partial to such courtly pastimes as the dance, and using the aristocratic ‘Don’ when signing his name. Juan de Zurbarán was interested in improving his social status, for he began to frequent José Rodríguez Tirado’s dance academy, and composed a sonnet in honor of Juan de Esquivel Navarro, the author of the Discursos sobre el arte del danzado (“Treatise on the Art of Dancing”), published in Seville in 1642. In 1641 he married Mariana de Quadros, daughter of a wealthy money-lender.
Juan de Zurbarán’s career was cut short by his early death at age 29. He contracted the plague during the epidemic that ravaged Seville in 1649 and died along with several of his brothers, leaving two small children.