At this remove, I don't remember the name of the painter was who was credited with creating the modern still life in my art history studies. What I do know is that it wasn't Fede Galizia (1578-c.1630) or any other woman because that was an all but unthinkable idea four decades ago. Now we know better thanks to the researches of many pioineering women, including Judy Chicago who memorialized Galizia in her magnum opus The Dinner Party and historian Linda Nochlin. What Nochlin wrote about the photographic clarity of Galizia's portraits is equally true of her still lifes, that they are "unfiltered by idealizing conventions or the artist's own personality."
Until the Renaissance, paintings were usually based on religious or allegorical themes with inanimate objects playing a subsidiary role as symbols underlining its themes. With the introduction of mathematical perspective by Leon Battista Alberti, objects were seen as enticing subjects in themselves. It was not that objects changed their appearance but rather that artists changed their minds about what verisimilitude looked like.
What keeps this gorgeous picture from looking stiff is the trajectory created by the placement of the jasmine, drawing the eye on diagonal paths across the canvas. With an indeterminate background and a light source that emanates from slightly above the level of the table, the eye needs direction and Galizia provides it subtly and surely. The velvety texture of peach skin and its tactile roundness seems to swell with a sensuous tumescence in contrast to the sheerness and hardness of glass The enameled skin of the pears and the porousness of the cut half pear contributes to this image of the pleasures of the sensuous world.
A glass compote remained unknown until the late 20th century when the art critic and Galizia biographer Flavio Caroli authenticated it. Since then the painting has been exhibited publicly, for the first time in 1994.
"It is a small panel..
Fede Galizia - A glass compote with peaches, jasmine flowers, quinces, and a grasshopper, 12 x 17 in., private collection, U.S., courtesy of Sotheby's, NYC.