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Oil painting - Still Life with a Dead Stag
  • Still Life with a Dead Stag
    Snyders, Frans, born 1579 - died 1657
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Still Life with a Dead Stag

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Antwerp (probably)

  • Date:

    1640s

  • Artist/Maker:

    Snyders, Frans, born 1579 - died 1657 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Museum number:

    4418-1857

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 5, The Friends of the V&A Gallery, case WN []

This painting is a typical example of the Flemish painter Frans Snyders is often described as the originator of Flemish Baroque still-life and animal painting. He produced an enormous body of work, of which more than 300 paintings survive (though many are misattributed to him). The monumentality of this painting indicates that it was probably the focal point in the decoration of a large room in a mansion house.

Physical description

A still life with a dead stag hanging from its hind legs, flanked by hanging game birds; a basket of fruit at lower left and at right a monkey picking at a bunch of grapes, startled by a sqawking parrot above

Place of Origin

Antwerp (probably)

Date

1640s

Artist/maker

Snyders, Frans, born 1579 - died 1657 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

F Snyders fecit
Signed bottom centre between the stag's legs

Dimensions

Height: 1220 mm estimate, Width: 1380 mm estimate, Height: 2000 mm framed, Width: 1380 mm framed

Object history note

Purchased, 1857

Historical context note

Originally attributed to the Flemish painter Frans Snyders in the 1893 catalogue, the painting was subsequently reattributed to a follower of Snyders. It was obscured by a very discoloured varnish but some details suggested that the painting could in fact be the work of the master.

During the varnish removal, conservators discovered a signature between the legs of the stag. This signature confirms that the painting is by Frans Snyders. Many other
details also appeared such as the cat in the top left corner, previously hidden under a thick layer of varnish and dirt. Frans Snyders specialised in large still-life paintings which reached the height of its popularity in Western Europe, especially in the Netherlands, during the 17th century. The term conventionally refers to works depicting an arrangement of diverse inanimate objects including fruits, flowers, shellfish, vessels and artefacts. In the present painting, the prominent stag carcass adds a dramatic effect to the overall composition.

The monkey in the V&A picture appears to have been an afterthought as it was painted over the completed chair. Thinly worked and also slightly abraded, the monkey has become almost ghostly as the oil paint has become more translucent with age. The motif of the monkey stealing fruit from a basket appears throughout Snyder's oeuvre such as in the Louvre picture (RF.3046). During the 16th and 17th centuries the 'thieveing monkey' theme came to incarnate stupidity or refer to their barbarism in being guided by animal instinct and desire. Similarly the fruit basket serves as a 'vanitas' in which the inviting grapes, peaches and melon are appetizing but at the same time allude to the perishable nature of earthly things.

In another painting, in the National Museum of Wales, an X-ray image has revealed a previous composition similar to the V&A painting. The previous composition was over-painted with the maid and bearded man which were added by a painter from Rubens’s workshop. This type of collaboration between workshops during the 17th century in the Netherlands was not unusual and it is known that Snyders often collaborated with other artists, especially for the figures.

Snyders decorative baroque works inspired both his contemporaries and 18th-century French artists such as Jean-Baptiste Oudry and François Desportes.
Despite his large output, Snyders was also extensively copied. A copy of the present painting identified as a studio work of slightly smaller dimensions (169.3 x 120.6 cm) was presented at Sotheby’s New York, 31 Jan 2013, lot 166.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, Frans Snyders 'Still Life with a Dead Stag', Flemish school, 1640s

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

C.M. Kauffmann, Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, pp. 266-267, cat. no. 330.
A Catalogue of the National Gallery of British Art at South Kensington with a supplement containing works by modern foreign artists and Old Masters, 2 vols., 1893. p. 186.

Materials

Oil paint; Canvas

Techniques

Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Parrot (bird); Monkeys (animals); Fruit basket; Birds; Still life; Deer

Categories

Paintings

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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