In the early 17th century, Frans Snyders created a new form of still life by combining fruit and game into a single image, and Still Life with Grapes and Game is an outstanding example of this innovation. Snyders's lavish still lifes—wittily arranged and executed with his broad, firm brushstrokes and characteristic palette of bright and direct colors—have a dynamic character unmatched by other artists. The focus of this remarkably well-preserved panel painting is an enormous wicker basket filled with red and green grapes in the center of a table covered by a red tablecloth. A couple of grape vines, their withering leaves still attached, add complexity to the arrangement. A tazza filled with luscious black figs, a Wan-Li bowl with red grapes, and dead game birds —including a brace of partridge, a splendid male pheasant, and a woodcock—surround the central basket. A row of finches, clamped between the two halves of a stick that juts out over the table's edge, adds to the colorful mix. The fruit and game birds fill the picture space and even appear to extend beyond its limits, a device Snyders often used to indicate spatial extension beyond the confines of the picture itself, thereby enhancing the viewer's sense of immediacy.
Born in Antwerp, Snyders trained with Pieter Brueghel the Younger (c. 1564–1637/1638) and probably also with Hendrick van Balen (c. 1574/5–1632). In 1602, at age 23, he joined the city's artists' Guild of Saint Luke. Following a study trip to Italy in 1608–1609, he established his own workshop. He quickly achieved international fame for his imposing still lifes, which include large market scenes, hunting pieces, and tabletops brimming with fruit and dead game. Snyders often collaborated with Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), one of the greatest artists of the 17th century, which demonstrates the esteem with which Snyders was held in his lifetime. Snyders painted the still-life and animal elements in some of Rubens's compositions, while Rubens executed figures in some of Snyders's larger still lifes.
Marks and Labels
Oscar Winterbottom [b. 1891], Horton Hall, Northampshire; by descent in his family; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 8 July 2005, no. 50); (Johnny van Haeften Ltd., London, and Colnaghi, London); purchased 15 February 2006 by NGA.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. "Frans Snyders, Still Life with Grapes and Game." Bulletin / National Gallery of Art, no. 35 (Fall 2006): 20-21, repro.