Essay taken from the exhibition catalogue Natures Banquet American Painting from the Manoogian Collection, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia, written by Dr. S. Maureen Burke
This elaborate dessert picture lays out a feast of nuts, fruits and wine by the Pennsylvanian artist John F. Francis. Oranges and grapes spill out of a shallow basket with handles draped with a white fringed towel patterned in light blue squares. On the white covered table, a small blue and white ‘Bennington’ Parian ware pitcher with grape decoration is placed at the left beside a glass water tumbler while oyster crackers and unshelled walnuts and almonds are strewn about the table. A white dish with split orange sections, crackers and grapes occupies the center foreground of the table. On the right are two bottles and five glasses two with red wine and three flutes with champagne. While the left side of the scene occupies a shallow space ending at a dark wall edged with a grapevine, the upper right of the painting opens out upon a distant landscape vista or soft blues and greens.
An almost identical still life is found in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The components are exactly the same, found in the same positions. Minor variations include softer curves in the red wine glasses at the Smithsonian, a sunset view in the landscape, a changed wine bottle label, the towel over the basket draped slightly differently, and the background architectural wall ending in a square column rather than the softer grapevine. With an Italian father, the artist may have had an epicurean approach to food and wine.
Francis was a prolific artist with numerous still lifes to his credit. He described himself as a portrait painter in 1850 when he lived in Trenton, New Jersey, but by 1858 when he lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania he was exhibiting “fruit pieces” in Washington. Francis was living in Upper Providence, Pennsylvania, during the decade when this painting was created.
Still Life with Wine and Fruit, 1863
Oil on canvas
25″ x 30″
Signed and dated lower center
Jo Ann and Julian Ganz, Jr. Los Angeles, CA
Manoogian Collection, acquired from the above in 2008, by a private treaty sale through Sotheby’s
Private Collection, Michigan, acquired from the above in 2019