AELST, Willem van
(b. 1627, Delft, d. ca. 1683, Amsterdam)

Hunting Still-Life

c. 1665
Oil on canvas, 65,5 x 52,7 cm
Private collection

Willem van Aelst was a still-life specialist prized for his lovely flower and fruit pieces, and he has been mentioned as a sometime follower of Kalf. He also painted a number of elegant game pictures in a clear light. They show close views of dead prey - occasionally accompanied by killed poultry - that include scrupulously painted guns, hunting bags and horns, bells and other gear of the sport. As most trophy pieces they were designed as representative pictures of the sport, not records of the spoils of a specific hunt.

In this picture the painter displayed the finely worked equipment of the huntsman on a marble ledge: a velvet hunting bag with chamois strap, trimmed with gold embroidery and fringes, and a tasseled horn. Above it he suspended the exquisite catch of a fat partridge and three small game birds. The exquisite blue of the velvet contains the expensive pigment lapis lazuli, which yields ultramarine colour when ground. It was imported from China. Van Aelst's lavish use of it reinforces the preciousness of the arrangement and confirms its destination in a wealthy home. Most Dutch painters used cheaper, less stable blue pigments.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 3 minutes):
Carl Maria von Weber: Der Freischütz, Act III: Jagerchor