Still-Life with Hare and Birds on a Ring by Adriaen van Utrecht

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Still-Life with Hare and Birds on a Ring by Adriaen van Utrecht
This painting is one of a group of paintings that Van Utrecht produced in this form, beginning in the early 1640s, under the influence of small-format hunting pieces by Jan Fyt. A dead hare lies on a tabletop parallel to the painting’s lower edge with its back legs trussed together, with a number of birds around an inverted wicker basket. An arrangement of vegetables, comprising a melon, cabbages and globe artichokes, balances them on the right-hand side. Suspended above the two groups is a ring hook, such is used for hanging game, to which five birds of differing sizes have been attached. A light source presumably located outside the painting to the left casts a strong narrow shaft of light onto the arrangement from the side. Some areas, such as the small birds skewered together on the rod at the front, remain in shadow. A softer light falls from the opposite side, a device that the painter used regularly to give body to the forms in his still-lifes.

Painting NameStill-Life with Hare and Birds on a Ring
Painter NameAdriaen van Utrecht
Completion Date1649
Size86 x 117 cm
TechniqueOil
MaterialCanvas
Current LocationGemäldegalerie Dresden

The individual motifs in the painting demonstrate a precise knowledge of the creatures depicted, which interestingly consist solely of small game. A wild duck, hanging by one leg in a dominant central position, is framed by two kingfishers, a sparrow and a blackbird, all attached to the ring. The hare lying head down on the tabletop echoes the bird’s vertical lines in its outstretched body and continues them in its two front legs hanging down at the front. Two dead snipe have been placed decoratively, although in a strange position, beside the hare, while a partridge leans against a basket. A bullfinch, a goldfinch, and a variety of other finches have been skewered on a rod that projects from the table, a visual idea that is echoed by the artichokes on the other side.

Adriaen van Utrecht drew inspiration in terms of both form and content from Frans Snyders, whose still-lifes with game and fowl1 contain a number of comparable motifs. But the precision in Van Utrecht’s painting, his constant attention to detail, and his controlled use of colour, centring chiefly on a cool grey with shades of brown, green and violet, is stylistically much closer to Jan Fyt.

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