This painting is one of a pair of fruit still lives (its partner is Still Life of Watermelons, Plums, Cherries, Figs, Pears, and a Monkey, CVCSC:0290.2.S). The long rectangular format suggests that the pair was probably designed to be hung over interior doors in an aristocratic palace, or palazzo, and for this reason also called overdoors, or sovrapporte.
In this composition, two guinea pigs feed happily on juicy cherries and plums and the barren Vesuvius stands out to the left, against a backdrop bathed in a sunset light. Luscious figs balance the composition on the right side of the ledge, while a huge melon flanks the abundant wicker basket in the centre. Apples, plums, and nectarines cascade forward out of this basket.
Giovan Battista Ruoppolo was one of the most sought-after painters of still lives in eighteenth-century Naples. During his mature period he attempted new and different inventions, including, as in these two paintings, inserting living animals and dreamlike landscapes into still life scenes.
Giovanni Battista Ruoppolo Still Lite of Figs, Cherries, Plums and other Fruit, with two Guinea Pigs About 1685 © Compton Verney