For a biography of Orsola Maddalena Caccia, see the Catalogue Entry for Flowers in a Grotesque Vase
Within her small group of still-life paintings, Caccia experimented rarely with piles of fruit and vegetables. The most obvious precedents for this subjects in Lombardy were the symmetrical, spare depictions of metal dishes, or tazze, filled with peaches and grapes against a shallow ground pioneered by Fede Galizia (ca. 1578–ca. 1630) and continued by Panfilo Nuvolone (1581–1651; see 2020.263.9
). A work attributed to Caccia, Still Life with Tazze, Fruit, and Partridge
(private collection; see fig. 1 above), indicates an isolated exploration of this distinctive format. Two larger scale paintings, however, demonstrate Caccia’s experiments with expanding her floral subjects balanced with larger quantities of fruit. These are more consistent with her other mature still lifes in terms of her paint handling, symmetrical arrangement of elements, and idiosyncratic use of flowers.
In The Met’s painting, Caccia employs her facility in soft modeling through shadows (the sfumato effect typically used for faces) in order to capture the volume and three-dimensionality of pears, apples, peaches, pomegranates, plums, and nectarines, all tipped slightly toward the picture plane. Along the bottom of the composition, she extends leaves and fruit across the stone ledge to a trompe l’oeil effect. The background, however, is perhaps the painting’s most remarkable feature, composed of a frieze-like dance of hollyhocks, tulips, and thin-petalled irises that seem to sprout directly—and somewhat inexplicably—from the stone. In Caccia’s most comparable composition (private collection; fig. 2), the insistence on symmetry and the almost architectural role given to flowers has resulted in her splitting the foreground between two dishes and subdividing the space above through upright stems that animate the upper two-thirds of the canvas. Much like Caccia’s flower paintings, the artificiality of the arrangement suggests inspiration from botanical prints, wall decoration, manuscript illumination, or perhaps the ephemeral floral decoration of altarpieces.
Although it is not possible to state so definitively, the two horizontal still lifes described above are possibly the same “two horizontal paintings with flowers and fruit” found an inventory taken of the Moncalvo convent in 1681.
The letter "O" on the reverse of this painting (fig. 3) connects it with the significant early group of works by Caccia and her father that were in the collection of Ferdinando Dal Pozzo (1768–1843) in her hometown of Moncalvo.
David Pullins 2020
 On her exposure to works by Fede Galizia and Panfilo Nuvolone, see Cottino 2000, p. 23.
 “due quadri in longo e fiori e frutti.” Cottino 2000, pp. 21–22.
 See Antonella Chiodo, "Il collezionismo di opere di Guglielmo Caccia detto il Moncalvo e della figlia Orsola Maddalena: Il caso della collezione Dal Pozzo," Annali di Storia moderna e contemporanea,
1 (2013), pp. 297–322.