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The Cover
November 27, 2002

Still Life With Game

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2002;288(20):2510. doi:10.1001/jama.288.20.2510

Luis Egidio Meléndez (1716-1780) seemed destined to become one of Spain's great history painters. Certainly all the stars appeared to be in place at the time of his birth. He was the son and nephew of prominent painters at the court of the Spanish Hapsburgs. His uncle was, in fact, Pintor del Rey to Philip V and had done portraits not only of Philip, but of both his wives and his four children. Luis' father was one of the founders and honorary director of painting at the newly established Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, where Luis became one of the first students admitted. But the young Meléndez was not to have the future forecast for him. He was expelled from the Academy in 1747 when he defended his father after the latter's ill-advised diatribe against the other directors. Luis' career as an academician was ended and with it any hopes for ever becoming painter to the king. Moreover, Bourbons now ruled in Spain and the court preferred French and Italian and German painters to Spanish painters. By the time Meléndez was ready to begin his career, he had been banished, so to speak, from the royal chambers to the kitchen. Justly, he is famous today not for any portraits of the royal family he might have done, but for his portraits of fruits and cooking pots. About 100 of these kitchen still lifes remain. They were enough to earn him the title of one of Spain's greatest still life painters ever, a worthy successor to Cotan of Spain's Golden 17th Century.