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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

Event Archive

Still Lives in Motion: Caravaggio and Zurbaran

10th July 2014, 19:00, Auckland Castle, Dr Stefano Cracolici (Durham University)

Dr Stefano Cracolici's lecture will be held in the magnificent Long Dining Room of Auckland Castle, home to the life size portraits of Jacob and his Twelve Sons by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664). Wine and soft drinks will be served upon arrival from 7pm. Please note there are limited spaces for the lecture, therefore pre-booking is essential. To reserve your place please contact or call 01388743750.

Like landscape or portraiture, still life represents an established genre in the artistic canon. Its most remarkable achievements are often associated with the greatness of the Dutch pictorial vision; its origins, however, are still blurred, and its development, outside the Low Countries, still needs to be entirely charted. Away from the conventional examples of the genre, this lecture will look at some striking still lives by Caravaggio and Zurbaran, focusing in particular on their experimental interpretation of the genre. In their experiments, Caravaggio and Zurbaran transform the depiction of inanimate objects into a coded narrative that the viewer is invited to decipher. The story behind the canvas has in fact little to do with the allegorical meaning of the objects represented; it is instead a matter of montage. The stillness of these still lives reveals action in the moment of its highest suspense; their timeless reality appears emotionally intensified in its fleetingness; their beholder is trapped in their unforeseen, unexpected and implausible precariousness. Caravaggio and Zurbaran set their still lives in motion. The improbable composition of trivial objects on the canvas transforms their visual outlook into a devotional image – should we pray in front of it or just admire?

Contact for more information about this event.