John F. Francis, Still Life with Wine and Fruit, 1863
John F. Francis was one of the leading still-life painters in mid-nineteenth century America, and Still Life with Wine and Fruit is considered one of his finest.
The painting includes bottles of wine accompanied by an arrangement of glasses; a blue and white pitcher trimmed with gold; a glass of water (commonly served in the best houses by the early nineteenth century); a plate of cheese; a basket of fruit partially covered with a fringed cloth; an elegant knife; and oyster crackers and nuts strewn over the cloth-covered table.
A variety of textures evoke the sense of touch—cool, brittle glass; moist cheese; crumbly crackers; hard nuts; soft fabric—and the cheese and opened oranges appeal to the sense of smell. A warm palette of yellows and tans, darker browns and oranges is offset by the light blue of the pitcher and trim of the fringed cloth.
This lavish array of abundance suggests a special occasion or a display of luxury that not everyone could afford.
The Detroit Institute of Art exhibit “Visions of American Life” is on display through May 23.