(Antwerp 1622 – 1674 Paris)
A Still Life with dead Game and Songbirds in the Snow
On canvas – 22 x 27 5/8 in, (55.5 x 70 cm)
Signed with initials centre right on the trap, P.B.
- A. M. Lindenmeyer-Christ, Basle
- Edith Greindl, Les Peintres Flamands de Nature Morte au XVIIe Siècle, 1960, oeuvre cat. no.3, p.339
- Paris, Musée de L’Orangerie, Rubens et son temps, 1936, p.4, no.2
The spoils of a day’s hunting are displayed in winter landscape: a jay, a greenfinch, a grey-leg partridge, a bullfinch and a green woodpecker lie motionless upon the snow, beside a rifle butt. Behind, resting on top of a bird-trap, is another partridge, while visible in the background, are a tree trunk, a large stone plinth and the base of a fluted column. In contrast to the snowy scenery, the birds’ plumage birds provides a symphony colour, in shades of grey, tawny, chestnut, salmon pink, iridescent blue, olive green and brilliant red.
Peeter Boel is best known as a painter of hunting scenes and still lifes of birds and game in the tradition of Frans Snyders and Jan Fyt. His smaller compositions featuring a hare or a few birds depicted in the open air owe much to Fyt. He also created large-scale compositions, with fruit, flowers, game and precious objects, many of which convey vanitas connotations. His undisputed masterpiece is the monumental vanitas still life entitled An Allegory of Worldly Life in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lille i. Peeter Boel played an important role in spreading the style of Jan Fyt and Flemish still life painting in general. In Paris, his decorative still lifes with fruit, game and live animals had a considerable influence on eighteenth-century French animal painters, such as François Desportes and Jean-Baptiste Oudry.
As only a very few of Peeter Boel’s works is dated, it is extremely difficult to establish a chronology for his development. The intimate quality of the present painting, which recalls Jan Fyt’s small hunting still lifes in the open air, suggests that it may be a fairly early work, perhaps dating from the early to mid 1650s. Though Boel’s subject-matter closely resembles Fyt’s, his compositions are more restrained and his handling of paint is smoother and more controlled. His palette also differs somewhat, showing a preference for accents of blue, red and pink: the salmon-coloured jay was one of his favourite motifs. Boel excelled in the rendering of various textures, especially feathers. Here, for example, he perfectly describes the soft, tousled breast feathers, the stiffer flight feathers and the scumbled surface of the frozen ground. The snowy landscape provides an unusual backdrop for a gamepiece, but is most effective, the chill atmosphere underscoring the stillness of the birds and adding a certain poignancy to scene.
Baptised in Antwerp on 22 October 1622, Peeter Boel was born into a family of artists. His father, Jan Boel, was an engraver, publisher and art dealer; his uncle, Quirin Boel I was also an engraver, as was his brother, Quirin Boel II. Peeter was probably a pupil of Frans Snyders and later of Johannes Fyt, who is named as Boel’s teacher in the biographical notes compiled by Jan Erasmus Quellinus. Probably during the late 1640s, Peeter travelled to Rome and Genoa, where he stayed with his uncle, the painter and art dealer Cornelis de Wael. In 1650, he became a master of the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke. His marriage to Maria Blanckaert took place about the same time: the couple had four children. After 1668, the artist moved to Paris, where he supplied designs to the Gobelins tapestry factory. In 1674, he was appointed Peintre Ordinaire to Louis XIV, but he died in Paris on 3 September of that year. A large collection of oil sketches of animals from this period is preserved in the Musée du Louvre. Boel’s pupils included his sons, Jan Baptist Boel, an animal painter and Balthazar Lucas Boel and David de Coninck.
- Peeter Boel, An Allegory of worldly Life, signed and dated 1663, on canvas, 207 x 260 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille.