Photograph: José Pessoa

Add to My Collection

Related content
Timeline for this item

Name of Object:
Baltazar Gomes Figueira (attributed)  (1604, Óbidos-1674, Óbidos)
Type of object:
Still Life /bodegones
Holding Museum:
Grão Vasco Museum
Viseu, Portugal
Period of activity:
Museum Inventory Number:
Material(s) / Technique(s):
Oil on canvas
Place of production:
Óbidos, Portugal
H: 41 cm; w: 161 cm
Has long been part of the permanent collection of Grão Vasco Museum
Baltazar Gomes Figueira was born and worked in Óbidos, although he studied in Seville where he worked with the great 17th-century Spanish painters Francisco Herrera, Zurbaran and Juan de Castillo. There he probably learned how to paint bodegones, a Spanish term given to both still-life and domestic interiors, and sometimes featuring kitchen scenes. This type of still-life painting was very much appreciated in the 16th century as a result of the growing artistic interest in scenes from daily life as well as an increased curiosity in the natural sciences. In the framework of the Baroque aesthetic, the still-life genre conveys transcendental values through the depiction of inanimate objects.
The painting is composed of three elemental groups: on the left-hand side the fish lying on the bare table represent the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, strength and temperance. The fish, separated from the other parts of the painting, are immersed in an intense penumbra and illuminated with a luminous white.
Lying on a light-green tablecloth are the other two groups: four dead birds – a sparrow, green woodpecker, duck and partridge – represent disrespect, human fragility and vice, lust and temptation. The grapes lying within this ensemble represent redemption of all these sins through the Eucharist.
Finally, on the right-hand side on the tablecloth, are a silver plate and some regional pottery beside the confectionery and fruit, these elements are symbolic of abundance, sensual desire, prosperity and immortality. The combinations of the four elements in each group are inked with the Four Seasons, the Four Elements (Earth, Air, Water, Fire) and with the Four Principles of Human Existence (Mind, Body, Spirit and Soul).
The vivid detail, seen in the realistic drops of water near the fish for example, draw attention to the magical chiaroscuro accentuated by thin, transparent layers of paint.
View Short Description
Current Owner:
Grão Vasco Museum
How date and origin were established:
Stylistic analysis
Selected bibliography:
Serrão, V., Josefa de Óbidos e o Tempo do Barroco, catalogue, Palácio da Ajuda, 1991.
Serrão, V., Uma obra prima do pintor seiscentista Baltazar Gomes Figueira, Éden Gráfico, Viseu, 1994.
Rouge et or: trésors du Portugal Barroque, catalogue, Musée André Jacquemart, Paris, 2001.
Additional Copyright Information:
Copyright images: Divisão de Documentação Fotográfica /Instituto dos Museus e Conservação,IP.
Citation of this web page:
Graça  Marcelino "Still-Life" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2015.;BAR;pt;Mus11_A;2;en
Prepared by: Graça Marcelino
Translation by: Cristina Correia
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PT 02