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Work Game and Hunting Accessories Arranged on a Window Ledge

Department of Paintings: Dutch painting

Game and Hunting Accessories on a Window Ledge

© 1993 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Paintings
Dutch painting

Author(s):
Michèle Perny

Jan Weenix, son and pupil of Jan Baptist Weenix, painted a wide range of subjects: landscapes, still-lifes, genre scenes, history paintings. During the early part of his career, he painted Italianizing scenes in the style of his father, before achieving a reputation as a talented painter of game, both living and dead. Weenix went on to become one of Holland's most celebrated painters of hunting still-lifes, as seen here.

Hunting trophies

As often in Weenix's paintings of game, and other hunting still-lifes of the time, an animal (in this case a hare) is shown hanging by one of its back legs, with its head down, as a trophy. The motif is directly related to the practice and customs of hunting with dogs. Here, the hare is hung from the top of an arched window frame opening onto a landscape, or more probably a park, dotted with large trees. The animal's head and two front legs are resting on a marble ledge. To the right of the hare, two partridges lie on top of a game bag with a large ornamental buckle. To the left, a type of hunting horn is seen sticking out. Made from carved horn, it is engraved and decorated with a braid tassel. The warm, red tones of the hare's fur, the colored feathers on the partridge's wing, the rough braid and the flaming sky – lit by the light of the setting sun – are heightened and contrasted with the white highlights of the hare's underbelly, the bird's plumage, and the canvas lining of the game bag (bottom right). The window ledge itself is made from a slab of red and white-veined marble. The painting's color scheme is clearly redolent of raw meat and blood – the essence of hunting – but this is more than counterbalanced by the refinement of the composition and details, and the overall sense of inexpressible harmony and aesthetic perfection.

A decorative function

Clearly, hunting still-lifes differ from everyday kitchen scenes – they illustrate an important aspect of the lives of a highly privileged social class. Hunting trophies such as this were often painted for the townhouses or castles of wealthy patrons – Weenix himself painted a series of panels for the audience chamber and anterooms at Schloss Bensberg, near Cologne. In this way, aristocratic patrons were able to advertise their passion for hunting. Ostentatious depictions of game, together with gamebags and other accessories, in sophisticated, luxurious settings, were seen as potent symbolic expressions of aristocratic wealth, pride and land ownership.

Father and son

Jan Weenix painted a wide variety of subjects throughout his career, but he was best-known for his hunting scenes, open-air depictions of game trophies, and still-lifes with game. Weenix was employed to produce decorative canvases for a number of fine townhouses in Amsterdam, but his most celebrated decorative scheme was a series of twelve large-format canvases commissioned by the Elector Palatine Johann Wilhelm von Neuburg-Wittelsbach for two galleries in his castle at Bensberg, near Düsseldorf (fragments of these canvases are preserved at the Alte Pinakotek in Munich). Weenix's attentive, sustained study of his father's works led him to paint compositions in the same Italianizing manner, however hunting trophies and still-lifes remained his personal specialty. He excelled at the rendering of texture, and the use of opulent, profuse color.

Bibliography

Norbert SCHNEIDER : Les Natures mortes, KÖLN : Taschen, 1994

Technical description

  • Jan WEENIX (Amsterdam, 1642 - Amsterdam, 1719)

    Game and Hunting Accessories on a Window Ledge

    1691

  • H. 1.09 m; W. 0.90 m

  • Transferred from Germany, 1806 (according to the inventory of the Musée Napoléon)

    INV. 1936

  • Paintings

    Richelieu wing
    2nd floor
    Holland, second half of the 17th century
    Room 39

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Additional information about the work

Signed top right: J. Weenix f. 1691 (date is not clearly legible).