Frans Snyders
Flemish, 1579–1657
Still Life with Dead Game, Fruits, and Vegetables in a Market

Oil on canvas

83 1/2 x 121 1/4 in. (212 x 308 cm)
Inscribed lower right: F. Snyders // Fecit 1614
Charles H. and Mary F.S. Worcester Collection, 1981.182

The robust realism of Frans Snyders's Still Life with Dead Game, Fruits, and Vegetables in a Market is energized by the suggestion of a struggle between virtue and vice woven into its abundant array of figures and animals. The still-life objects are displayed in the form of goods at an open-air market stall whose elderly vendor tips his hat to greet the viewer. Menace threatens the shopkeeper in the form of a boy picking his pocket. On the ground below, a sinister cat waits with glowing eyes to pounce on the weaker of two cocks fighting. Other game animals reinforce the contrast between good and evil. A peacock, traditionally a symbol of vanity and pride, and a wild boar, an emblem of lust and gluttony, lie alongside a deer, often associated with purity of heart.

Snyders was one of numerous Flemish artists active in Antwerp during the early 17th century. His dramatic, nearly life-sized compositions were stimulated on occasion by a collaboration with Flanders' leading artist, Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), whose studio was also in Antwerp. Working together on large still-lifes similar to this one, Rubens painted the figures, and Snyder executed the game and produce. By 1614, the overflowing market scene had become Snyders's specialty. Snyders has sometimes been called the inventor of the "commercial" still life, in which the viewer becomes a customer, made evident in this painting by the vendor's gesture of greeting. In addition to its visual appeal, the canvas provides documentation of the open sale of game in Antwerp to middle-class citizens, a result of the liberalization of laws that had previously reserved game hunting and consumption for aristocrats.