Still Life with Oranges and Walnuts

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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Various foods and containers compete for space on a bare wooden shelf or table. A plate is piled high with walnuts, with chestnuts and oranges scattered nearby and a colossal melon behind. There are earthenware jugs, probably containing oil or wine, and a small barrel. The round boxes were normally used for storing cheese, the rectangular ones for sweets such as dulce de membrillo, a thick quince jelly eaten in slices.

The placement of these everyday objects might seem arbitrary, but Meléndez has arranged his composition carefully to lead our eye round the picture. Though the colour range is limited, the intense light emphasises the range of textures, from dimpled orange peel to the delicate woodgrain of the barrel and boxes. These qualities stand Meléndez’s still-life works apart from those of his contemporaries, and established him as the leading still-life painter of his generation.

The National Gallery, London



Still Life with Oranges and Walnuts




Oil on canvas


H 61 x W 81.3 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1986

Work type



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