Ribot painted his still lifes by night, using artificial light to create shadows and confer greater volume and texture upon his objects. In this work he presents a large pumpkin on a silver platter, together with figs, cherries and plums and a decorated ceramic jug. To enliven the composition Ribot makes an allusion to human intervention—someone has cut a piece of pumpkin; on the left a fig has been squashed to reveal the juicy pulp and on the right one of the plums has been cut in halves. A strong light enters the composition from the left, illuminating the spherical shapes of the pumpkin and the jug, albeit leaving the latter and part of the fruit in darkness.
Ribot painted this still life following the principles of the Realist movement led by Gustave Courbet. Realist artists endeavoured to render nature as they captured it, far from any form of idealisation. Ribot was inspired by the works of those 17th-century Spanish artists who had discovered the essence of Naturalism. In the mid-19th century there were numerous works of Spanish art in Paris, which had been taken to the French capital during the Spanish War of Independence. The creation of king Louis Philip's Spanish Gallery, which remained in the Louvre until 1848, also helped to increase this presence. Ribot was especially interested in Ribera's treatment of figures and objects and his dramatic use of chiaroscuro. The painter had occasion to see Ribera's Saint Sebastian Tended by the Holy Women, then belonging to marshal Soult and currently in this Museum's collection.
Ribot worked as a decorator of gilt frames for a mirror factory in Paris and did not begin his professional career as a painter until the late eighteen fifties. Still lifes, kitchen scenes and larger scale Romantic works were his main areas of interest. [X.B.]
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Xavier Bray. Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao : guía. Bilbao : Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa, 2011 (1ª ed. 2006; ed. inglés; ed. francés; ed. euskera), p. 99, n.º 68, ad vocem.