Artibus et Historiae no. 75 (XXXVIII)

2017, ISSN 0391-9064

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CYRIL GERBRON - Enigmatic Presences: The Still Lifes of Juan Sánchez Cotán (pp. 165–180)

The article deals with Juan Sánchez Cotán’s still lifes and the vexing question of the link between them and the painter’s religious paintings. It is argued that the still lifes are not isolated formal experiments, as it has been said most recently, and that a traditional symbolic interpretation is not appropriate either. The first part of the article consists in a re-examination, based on Victor Stoichita’s L’instauration du tableau, of the still lifes’ formal structure. In the second part they have been compared with a Crucifix by Sánchez Cotán which shows a strikingly similar spatial construction and evokes a like interaction between presence and representation; they have been also related to Luis de Granada’s thoughts about the material world that help to understand the paintings, but do not help to find their meaning. In fact, Sánchez Cotán made the choice not to convey any meaning, but to confront the beholder with the mystery of a mere presence, the mystery of a world from which God has disappeared, yet one that was created by him and that reveals his beauty. The third part of the article considers the Spiritual Canticle by John of the Cross, a good model for understanding the still lifes in question: as the mystical poem, they assert the mysterious and invisible presence of God through formal means.



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