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This painting is one of just a few still life artworks produced by Caravaggio during his illustrious career. It is dated at around 1605, which is known to have been a particularly prolific period for the artist.
Still Life with Fruit on a Stone Ledge captures a wide selection of fruit and vegetable in a complex arrangement that must have taken some considerable time to set up. Light is fairly unbundant in this example, covering all of the food and also showing us the edge of the ledge. In most other examples of his work, the darkness would cover large regions of the canvas, and light would only be used for a select part of the composition. This created a great sense of drama but in this case would have meant that we would not have seen much of the content. Thankfully, he alters things for this painting and we get to appreciate a bright palette that delivers a pomegranate, grapes, oranges, peaches, squashes, onions, marrows, melons and more besides. It is Caravaggio, but not as we know it. He was a highly gifted artist who could turn his hand to any genre, though his work mainly focused on portraits along the lines of mythological and religious tales.
It is likely that Caravaggio produced this piece within his own home, for we know that at around this time he fell out with his landlord after cutting holes in his ceiling in order to get the right amount of light shining on some of his new compositions. That may have been how this piece achieved the direction and level of saturation that we find here, and provided another interesting sidenote to his personal life that was never far from trouble. Indeed, his constant battles would add an element of interest to this artist and seemed to match his own artistic style that was normally dramatic and also entirely unique. During and shortly after his career took hold, many followers would attempt to mimic his approach, some more successfully than others. This has led to some confusion around the correct attribution of his work but also underlines quite how much the art world of the time took Caravaggio to their hearts.
Still life painting has been an important genre within European art history, but has certainly fallen out of favour in recent generations. It became particularly common in some periods of Flemish art, but has also been significant in the work of other artists such as Paul Cezanne, who liked to arrange fruit within his own home during the 19th century. That passion brought about well known paintings such as Still Life with Apples, The Basket of Apples, The Blue Vase and Apples and Oranges. Another notable French painter who actually specialised in this genre was Chardin.