Abstract: This essay suggests a way of reading the monumental still lifes of game painted by Frans Snyders and others in the first half of the seventeenth century. Previous scholarship has shown that these works assert the owner’s status, either as a nobleman with the privilege to hunt or as a merchant aspiring to nobility with the wealth that enabled him to buy the painting. In either case, the dead animals in the paintings serve as trophies, killed and displayed not for use, but as signs of privilege. Nonetheless, Snyders’s works show that he was also aware of the arguments against hunting made by More, Erasmus, Montaigne, and others in the sixteenth century. Thus, while Snyders developed the conventions of this distinctive genre, he also distanced himself from the excessive killing it records. Such paintings represent an “autocritique”—a critique of the ideology of the form from within the form itself. In its conclusion, the article contrasts these still lifes of game, characteristic of the predominantly Catholic and aristocratic south, with smaller breakfast scenes, a form which developed later in reaction to the game still lifes and was characteristic of the largely Protestant northern Netherlands.
Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Feb 25, 2016