Frans Snyders specialized in still lifes. As a fourteen-year-old he served as an apprentice to Pieter Breugel the Younger, and from 1603 he worked as a master in Antwerp. His early paintings often featured fruits, vegetables, and flowers, while animals were integral to his later works. His talent for depicting flora and fauna made an indelible impression on his contemporary colleague Peter Paul Rubens, and the two artists teamed up for several works.
A Game Shop showcases Snyders’s idiosyncratic ability to depict both animals and vegetation in an impressive manner. In addition to his technical mastery, Snyders was also an adept storyteller. The little boy helping out at the venison dealer is not quite up to the task at hand. As hens flutter away from his feeble grasp, the boy cries out in alarm, and the venison dealer turn towards him in exasperation. Everything has been rendered in precise detail, and the composition is dense. The hens’ dramatic flight has been placed at the heart of the picture, which is otherwise rife with plentiful fruit baskets, enticing vegetables, and potential dinners. Smaller scenes are also being played out: the dog in the bottom left growls intently at the dead boar, while the cooped-up hen in the bottom-right corner is easy prey for the hungry cat. All the elements have their place in this expansive composition, which almost seems like a tableau vivant where we can hear the animals cackling, fluttering, and growling.
Text: Ellen J. Lerberg
From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0