Still Life with Dead Birds and Game Bag
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Willem van Aelst
Dutch, 1674
Oil on canvas
17 3/4 x 14 1/2 in.

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Willem van Aelst's sensual and sumptuous treatment of the dead birds, leather case, and satin drapery in this picture forms an obvious link with his other still-life specialty, collections of luxurious objects. In this hunting trophy picture, van Aelst rendered the brightly colored birds and wide range of surfaces and textures with the same lushness he devoted elsewhere to crystal goblets and silver platters. He painted the birds so carefully that they can be accurately identified: the blue-green one is a kingfisher, the small red one is a Eurasian bullfinch, and the yellow-brown bird is a male bearded tit.

Few Dutch artists actually painted dead game and fowl, perhaps because hunting and shooting was not widely practiced in the northern Netherlands. Although a small number of game and fowl still lifes did begin to appear in Holland around 1640, the market for such pictures remained small.

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