A pair of still-life paintings: Confectionery and Pottery and Confectionery and Flowers
Santarém, Santarém, Portugal
Museum and House of Anselmo Braamcamp Freire
Josefa de Ayala e Cabrera (Josefa d'Óbidos) (1630, Seville-1684, Óbidos)
Oil on canvas
Confectionery and Pottery: h: 84 cm; w: 160.5 cm Confectionery and Flowers: h: 85 cm; w: 160.5 cm
Josefa de Ayala workshop
Anselmo Braamcamp Freire collection
Still-life / Bodegones
This is one of two still-life paintings belonging to the Anselmo Braamcamp Freire collection by Josefa d' Óbidos. The influence of the Flemish, Dutch and Andalusian schools, which Josefa d' Óbidos adapted to her Naturalist genre to create her own distinct style, is clearly visible here. The painting reveals an essential simplicity, in which the central details are the confectionary, the pottery and flowers, and it is this very simplicity allied to the artist's delicate technique as well as a wide colour palette, that transform these works into silent and realistic worlds of living objects in all their serenity.
It is worth mentioning the use of a range of whites which in its subtlety adds to the vivid realism of the paintings and heightens the awakening of all five senses that is so redolent of Baroque Art and so characteristic of this artist.
Another approach to these paintings is to regard them as allegories of Christianity and the monastic life. Symbols such as the bread, the silverware and the pots are connected to festive occasions and feasts like the Eucharist. Ceramics are associated with the daily rituals of the town of Óbidos.
It is also possible to establish a connection with the Baroque discourse of the Counter-Reformation in which the gesture and behavioural excesses of human nature stand out, in contrast to the principles and values of purity and simplicity. Valuable objects and luxurious embroideries are represented together with white roses, representing the spirit of patience and red roses, associated with spiritual martyrdom.
Exploiting her knowledge of symbols and the significance of plants, the artist turns each detail into a symbol of reality and man's moral and spiritual values. Thus, the cherries and roses symbolise happiness, maternal love is suggested by the carnations and eternal life is characterised by the butterfly.
Josefa d’ Óbidos' still-life evokes the Counter-Reformation's Baroque ideas in which Man's gesture and behavioural excesses contrast with purity and simplicity. Details like bread, cakes, silver and embroidery symbolise human values in contrast to the flowers, representing spiritual values.
Museu Biblioteca Braamcamp Freire
Signed and dated: “+ / Josepha. Em Óbidos. / 1676.”
Anselmo Braamcamp Freire bequeathed his palace, books and art collection to the nation; the palace is now Santarém Public Library and the bequest included the two paintings seen here.
Sequeira, G. M. de, Inventário Artístico de Portugal, Distrito de Santarém, vol. III, Lisbon, ANBA, 1949, p. 73. Serrão V., (ed), Josefa de Óbidos e o tempo Barroco, exhibition catalogue, I.P.P.C., Lisbon, 1991, p. 203.
The Sacred and the Profane: Josefa de Óbidos of Portugal 1630–1684, National Museum Of Women in The Arts, Washington, 1997.
Rouge et Or, Trésors du Portugal Baroque, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2002.
Serrão, V., História de Arte em Portugal, o Barroco, Lisbon, first edition, 2003
Susana Alves "A pair of still-life paintings: Confectionery and Pottery and Confectionery and Flowers" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2022. https://baroqueart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;BAR;pt;Mus11;7;en
Prepared by: Susana Alves
Translation by: Ester Ramos
MWNF Working Number: PT 10