(Antwerp, 1579 – 1657)
Still life with a cat
Oil on copper, 37.2 x 55 cm
In 1592–1593 Snyders studied in Antwerp with Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Hendrik van Balen, the teacher of Van Dyck. In 1602, he enrolled with Guild of Saint Luke. Following a journey to Italy, in 1609 Snyders began to work in the studio of Peter Paul Rubens and got to know Van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens. In keeping with the widespread tradition of the day, whereby artists were strictly specialized and collaboration with other artists in the creation of a canvas was not unusual, Snyders, as an extraordinary animalist and master of the still life, created depictions of fruit, flowers and animals in pictures by Rubens. At the same time, paintings by Snyders featured human figures painted by his colleagues. Among the creative legacy of this famed painter, a special place is taken by large-scale, monumental-decorative canvases that have been titled “Pantries” and “Stalls” and were intended for vast, grand spaces. Frans Snyders had a large, flourishing studio where there was a staff of assistants and students. He worked predominantly in Antwerp.
The present painting, named “Fruit in a silver gilt tazza, birds picking fraises des bois from a Wan-li porcelain bowl, a façon de Venise glass, a knife, figs and hazelnuts on a ledge with a cat looking on”, was included in the monumental exhibition of Flemish Art at the Royal Academy, London in the winter of 1953. An astounding 554 paintings were hung at Burlington House and visitors were treated to such masterpieces as Pieter Brueghel’s The Fall of Icarus (Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts), Portrait of Margaret van Eyck by Jan van Eyck (Ghent, Stedelijk Museum), and Charles I in three positions by Anthony van Dyck (London, Royal Collection) as well as numerous oil sketches by Rubens. Of the six works by Frans Snyders, including the Still life with fruit, a lobster, parrot and squirrel in the National Gallery of Ireland, the present work was the only painting on copper. Many of the objects present in this still life appear in works produced by Frans Snyders early in his career, including two works dated 1616 – Basket with a parrot and cat (Kunsthaus, Zürich; oil on panel, 28 x 41 in.) and Still life with fruit, Wan-Li Porcelain, and squirrel (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts; oil on copper, 21 3/8 x33 in.). Susan Koslow, after personal inspection of this work, assigns it to a later period, the late 1620s, in Snyder’s career, based on the bold application of paint in the stone fruit and tazza. She remarks that certain elements such as the cat and hazelnuts, uncharacteristically rendered, may suggest participation of assistants. She points out that the clever subject of the painting represents Snyders at his best – the birds distracted by the berries and oblivious of their predator, the keen-eyed cat, reflects the artist’s keen wit. It is testament to the supreme importance of awareness as key to survival – very likely subtle commentary on political events at the time. Fred Meijer confirms the attribution to Frans Synders, on the basis of photographs (verbal communication, 5 December 2009), considering it to be a fine work by the artist.
The painting is in very good condition.
Dr. Ernst Sklarz, London, by 1953;
With Dr. W. Katz, London, 1983, where purchased by the former owner, and by descent;
Important private collection, Zürich, Switzerland
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Flemish Art 1300-1700, 5 December 1953 – 6 March 1954, no. 314;
Exhibition’s catalogue “Art Rules”, Tallinn, 2015;
Kunstberatung Zurich. Old masters and Modern art catalogue: private treasures, Zurich, 2019
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Flemish Art 1300-1700, 5 December 1953 – 6 March 1954;
Exhibition “Art Rules” organized by Art-Life Project in Tallinn Town Hall, 5 June 2015 – 5 October 2015, Estonia;
PAM – Salon Point Art Monaco – 2015;
Masterpiece London – 2017;
BRAFA – the Brussels Art Fair – 2017;
Exhibition “Old masters: image and symbol. Paintings from the 15 to the 17th century from private collections”, Artcentre.Moscow, 2019 – 2020