Cristoforo Munari (Reggio Emillia 1667 – 1720 Pisa), A Still-Life with Melon, an octagonal blue and white cup on a Silver Charger, oil on canvas, 8 ¾ x 11 ⅞ inches (22.2 x 29.9 cm). Photo courtesy Otto Naumann Ltd.
Provenance: The Lodi Collection, Campioni d’Italia, and sale, Christie’s, New York, October 17, 2006, no.36.
Exhibited: Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Alte Pinakothek, Italian still life painting from three centuries, The Silvano Lodi collection, November 27, 1984-22 February 1985, 63; Berlin,Gemäldegalerie Staatliche Museen-Preussicher Kulturbesitz, September 6-October 27, 1985.Milan, X Internazionale Antiquariato, La curiosità dipinta, March 30-April 8, 1990; and Torino, April 18-May 5,1990, no. XXIV.Jerusalem, The Israel Museum of Art, Italian still life painting, from The Silvano Lodi collection, June 1994.Tokyo, Seiji Togo Memorial Museum of Art, Italian still life painting from The Silvano Lodi collection, 28 April-26 May 2001. no. 32; and on tour in Japan.Brussels, La Galerie du Crédit Communal, L’Art Gourmand, November 19, 1996-February 23,1997, no. 68; Darmstadt, Hessisches Landesmuseum, March 5-June 1, 1997; and Cologne Wallraf-Richartz Museum, June 19- September 14, 1997;Ravensburg, Schloss Achberg, Natura morta italiana: Italiensche stilleben aus vier Jahrhunderten, sammlung Silvano Lodi, April 11-October 12, 2003.
Literature: L. Salerno, Italian Still-Life painting from three centuries, The Silvano Lodi collection, exhibition catalogue, Florence 1984, pp. 137-39, no. 63.; G. Anedi, et. Al., La curiosità dipinta, Milan 1990, p. 46, no. 24.; Italian Still-Life painting, from the Silvano Lodi Collection, exhibition catalogue, Jerusalem 1994.; Italian Still-Life painting, from the Silvano Lodi Collection, exhibition catalogue,Tokyo 2001, p. 71, no. 32.; N. Schneider, et. al. L’Art Gourmand, exhibition catalogue, Brussels 1996, pp. 232-3, no. 68.; F. Baldassari, Cristoforo Munari, Milan 1998, pp. 164-5, no. 54.; S. Dathe, Natura morta italiana: Italiensiche stillebenaus vier Jahrhundertenm sammlung Silvano Lodi, exhibition catalogue, Ravensburg 2003, p. 18.
The highly successful Cristoforo Munari was among the greatest contributors to the Italian tradition of natura morta, or still life, which flourished in Italy during the seventeenth century. Born in Reggio Emilia in 1667, the artist was the protgégé of Rinaldo I d’Este, Duke of Modena. In 1706, Munarii arrived in Florence where he received many commissions from the Florentine nobility and became a popular painter for the Medici family. The Abbott, Orazio Marrini, praised the artist for his trompe l’oeil compositions which adorned the Villa di Lappeggi—a favorite retreat of Cardinal Francesco Maria de’ Medici. Munari’s attention to detail may have been influenced by Baschenis, but is mostly suggestive of the manner of the Dutch artist Jan de Heem.
The present work is a fine example of Munari’s ability to render his subject matter with remarkable detail and faithfulness to nature. The artist contrasts the textures of the glistening melon with the smooth, glazed enamel of the Chinese porcelain pieces. He depicts the subtle play of reflections and transparencies between the surface of the objects and the gleaming silver tray. The dark background of the scene foils the upturned bowl—a hallmark of Munari’s style. The objects included in his still lifes attest to the indispensable elegance and prosperity of his patrons.
In Francesca Baldassari’s 1998 monograph of the artist, she records the present painting, then in the Lodi Collection, with a pendant. The other painting—sold separately at Christie’s, New York, October 17, 2006, lot 35—depicts three conch shells and two Chinese porcelain cups. It was common for Munari to paint his still lifes as pendants, possibly to appeal to the decorative needs of his clientele. A similar instance in which the artist pairs his works can be found in the collection of the Museo Bardini in Florence, where in Chinese porcelains, silver, and cut-glass objects are equally juxtaposed with richly colored fruits.
Otto Naumann Ltd. http://www.ottonaumannltd.com/