This information is ©
The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow 2018
"Still Life with Dead Game"
CRE SNYDERS, Frans; (Flemish; 1579-1657)
oil on canvas
119.4 x 202.6
Louis XIV frame by John Davis, 2005, 134.0 x 218.0
From the founder, William Hunter's collection. Snyders was the greatest Flemish Baroque still life painter, specialising in animal paintings and food still lifes aimed at the wealthiest clients. Snyders was a friend of Rubens, whom he may have met in Italy, and with whom he often collaborated, painting animals and still life elements in Rubens's compositions when the work of a specialist was required. Travelling in Italy in 1608-9, Snyders was the protégé of Cardinal Borromeo in Milan, whose collection included early examples of the newly emerging genre of still life, including the celebrated Caravaggio of a basket of fruit. The message of this impressive game piece concerns the abundance of nature, the importance of enjoying earthly pleasures, as well as containing subtle classical allusions which concern the nature of art. Living animals intrude onto the scene as a demonstration of the vivacity of the painter's technique. The birds recall the story of Pliny the Elder about the ancient Greek painter Zeuxis whose grapes were so lifelike that birds flew down to peck at them. The dogs who sniff the air as if still in pursuit of the stag in the centre of the composition - his antlers just budding as in Ovid's account of the myth - could be Actaeon's dogs confused by their master's metamorphosis.
This is one of Hunter's paintings for which no precise record of acquisition survives. It seems to have been a gift from Viscount Beauchamp (1743-1822), the son of the Earl and Countess of Hertford, who were patients and friends, and themselves owned a Snyders 'Boar Hunt' painting. Beauchamp was a cultivated man who shared Hunter's interest in books, made a grand tour to Italy, and became a member of the Accademia del Disegno in Florence in September 1765. Hunter's painting - which was never engraved - contains an interesting piece of evidence concerning his relationship with Joshua Reynolds. It is the source of the dead game in Reynolds's double portrait of Colonel Acland and Lord Sidney, known as The Archers (Tate Britain). In that portrait Reynolds quoted the beautifully life-like dead game - the partridges, heron and stag outstretched on the table - from this picture. The Archers was exhibited at the Royal Academy's second summer exhibition in 1770, so Hunter may have acquired this painting by then, unless the two Academicians had seen it together in a London collection.
The attribution of this work was questioned by Hella Robels (Frans Snyders, Stilleben und Tiermaler 1579-1657, Munich 1989, A 81). Robels catalogued it as Paul de Vos, by comparison with a similar, signed work in the Prado (inv. No. 1877). The Hunterian painting is composed entirely of elements - the sniffing dogs; the lobster on the dish; the boar's head etc - invented by Snyders. Like Rubens, Snyders rarely signed his work, reasoning perhaps that his signature was in the design, and facture of the painting. The stag and the dogs are related respectively to a drawing and an oil sketch unquestionably by Snyders. Paul de Vos, however, almost certainly had a hand in the painting, but his relationship with Snyders was - until the death of Snyders- more that of partner, as Susan Koslow points out in her book Frans Snyders: The Noble Estate, p. 21. The relationship with the Madrid painting can be explained by placing that painting after the death of Snyders in 1657, at which point de Vos inherited the master's studio tools and easels, and marketed as his own compositions based on Snyders models, many of which he had painted in partnership, and which, as inheritor of the studio, he now owned.
It is not yet known how Hunter acquired the work.
Bequeathed by Dr William Hunter, 1783
STILL LIFE : FRUIT : STAG : DEATH : DOG : EATING : FISH : ZEUXIS : HUNTER 2007 : ANCIENT GREEK PAINTING : LOST TREASURES : NIRP2005 : ON DISPLAY :