National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Still Life with Dead Game Willem van Aelst (artist)
Dutch, 1627 - 1683
Still Life with Dead Game, 1661
oil on canvas
overall: 84.7 x 67.3 cm (33 3/8 x 26 1/2 in.)
Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund
On View
From the Tour: Dutch Still Lifes and Landscapes of the 1600s
Object 1 of 8

The life-sized depiction of animals creates a tangible sense of reality. In fact, many Dutch still lifes are full-scale representations of the real objects they portray. This quarry fancifully includes a domestic rooster, wild hare and partridge, and several songbirds. Also hanging from the cords are two red velvet hoods used to train hunting falcons. The only sign of life is a fly attracted to the blood on the cock's comb.

Hidden in the shadows behind the game pouch's silver buckle, a classical bas-relief is carved in the marble pedestal. While nymphs watch, the chaste goddess of the hunt, Diana, splashes water on Actaeon, a mortal hunter who surprised her at her bath. In punishment for embarrassing Diana, Actaeon sprouts the antlers of a stag and will be killed by his own hounds.

Van Aelst, who worked in Paris and Florence before settling in Amsterdam, was one of the first still-life painters to depict hunt trophies. His superb illusions of fur, feathers, and flesh set a major precedent for later French, British, and American sporting still lifes.

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