It is the first painting by the artist, the son of the more famous Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664), to enter a UK public collection.
Previously unknown and unpublished, the work was recently discovered by Sotheby's in a Spanish private collection where it has been for at least two generations.
The owners thought that it could be by Juan de Zurbarán but research by Sotheby’s specialists concluded the attribution was beyond doubt. It has now added to the small number of known works by the artist.
Barely dozen paintings by Zurbarán have been identified, all of them still lifes and this 2ft 8in x 3ft 7in (81 x 1.09m) oil on canvas is believed to date from 1643-49.
The artist died aged 29 during The Great Plague of Seville that wiped out swathes of the population of the Spanish city.
The painting was in good condition while in the family’s possession and had last been restored in around 1990. National Gallery director, Dr Gabriele Finaldi said it was in a “superb state of conservation” and that its “rich colours” had been revealed after a recent clean.
He said: “The National Gallery is fortunate to have one of the strongest collections of Spanish Golden Age paintings in the world. This exceptional Juan de Zurbarán acquisition not only enables us to tell a much richer story about the development of Spanish still-life painting, but also reunites the work of father and son.”
The painting was acquired via private donations to the National Gallery Trust and the American Friends of the National Gallery. The price paid was €2.4m.
Singer Sargent’s Wineglasses
The National Gallery has also announced another acquisition – a study of a sun-dappled veranda by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) painted when the artist was 19 years old.
Wineglasses was allocated to the National Gallery under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, offsetting £1.54m of inheritance tax owed by its previous owner.
The 17.75 x 14.75in (45 x 38cm) oil on canvas was likely painted at St-Enogat in Brittany in 1875 – shortly after Singer Sargent had attended the first Impressionist exhibition in Paris which deeply affected him and clearly influenced this work.
Finaldi said: “We currently only have one work by John Singer Sargent in the National Gallery collection – his portrait of Lord Ribblesdale – so we are very pleased to have been allocated one of his landscapes, which also allows us to demonstrate more fully on the walls of the National Gallery, the effect the Impressionists had on their fellow artists.”
Both works have now gone on display at the gallery in Trafalgar Square.