In this still-life, the painter drives our gaze through the dramatic use of light and the careful arrangement of the single elements, which have been meticulously studied and from real life. In the half-light, set slightly back on the rustic table, is a wicker basket whose half-open lid reveals an abundance of apples. Some of these apples are overripe, especially the one in the centre foreground, painted with evident dark stains. Also lying on the table is a freshly picked parsnip. a cabbage and a ruffled lettuce.
Giovan Battista Recco was one of the most important Neapolitan still-life painters of the first half of the seventeenth century, although little is known little about his life and only a handful of his canvases are signed. Active in Naples between 1615 and 1660, and also called “Titta Recco” in early inventories, Giovan Battista Recco was possibly the brother of Giacomo Recco (1603-1653), and uncle of the better-known Giuseppe Recco (1634-1695), all of whom specialised in still-life painting. Compared to his brother and nephew, Giovan Battista stands out for his close adherence to Spanish naturalism and the bodegones of the early seventeenth century. These were rustic kitchen scenes that represented common objects of daily life, including food. The distinctive character that Recco gives to each painted element here recalls Spanish painting, including the work of the young Velázquez (1599-1660), who was in Italy in 1630–1631. Recco was also influenced by the naturalism and light of Caravaggio (1571–1610), who was in Naples between 1606 and 1610, and Jusepe de Ribera (1591–1652), who arrived in Naples in 1616.
Giovanni Battista Recco Still Life with Apples, Cabbage, Parsnip, and Lettuce About 1650–1660 (?) © Compton Verney