Soto Domecq and Colón Carvajal family, Seville, until 2021
We are grateful to Dr. Fred G. Meijer for proposing the attribution to Peeter Boel and for writing the attached essay.
Peeter Boel was a pupil of the animal and still-life painter Joannes Fijt (1611-1661), probably in the first half of the 1640s, initially having been trained by his father, Jan Boel, who was an engraver. After his training, Peeter Boel left for Italy in 1647, first staying in Genoa and later in Rome. He was back in Antwerp between September 1650 and September 1651, in which administrative period he was admitted as a master in the Antwerp guild of St. Luke. He worked in Antwerp until moving to Paris, probably in the fall of 1668. In 1671, he was recorded as ‘Pierre Boel, peintre du Roy’.
Boel was a prolific painter of animals and still lifes of game. To find a depiction of a single dead animal in Boel’s oeuvre is rare – he painted many studies of live animals during his years in Paris. Deer can be found regularly in his still lifes of game, as well as in his compositions with live animals. A similar deer as in the present painting (or perhaps the same animal) is shown hung by a hind leg in a large still life of game by Boel in the Montreal Museum of Fine Art[i], and a bigger deer can be found in a still-life painting that was auctioned in Spain in 2009[ii]. The same large animal, no doubt based upon the same study, is present in a painting in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich (inv. no. 372, see online database RKDimages, record no. 12666). The skin of the animal has been rendered very similarly in those works. Comparable in treatment is also the skin of a live goat in a composition that is known in several versions, among others one in the French national collection, on loan from the Louvre to the museum in Soissons[iii]. This composition may well have originated during Boel’s stay in Genova; in any case it shows the impact Castiglione’s work had on Boel in Italy. A study of the head of a dog by Boel in Dulwich is another good example of his rendering of short-haired fur[iv]. Live deer can be found in a painting that may have originated as a group of animal studies, later furnished with a landscape around them by a different hand[v]. Over time, it has been attributed to various artists, but the animals are unmistakably by Peeter Boel’s hand. Boel did not often sign his works and only very rarely dated them, but we may safely assume that thispainting of a dead deer originated after his Italian sojourn and before his move to France, and most likely in the 1650s and consequently in Antwerp.
It is interesting to note that a somewhat larger variant of this painting came up for auction in Berlin in 1911 (as by Frans Snijders[vi]). In that painting, the background is more elaborate, and it works more as an actual still-life composition, with a backdrop and a few added motifs. The animal itself is equally large in both paintings but differs slightly (particularly the pose of one of the front legs); Boel did not copy the deer verbatim from one painting into the other, but worked freely with the motif, as he did with other repeating motifs in several of his paintings.
Fred G. Meijer, Independent Art Historian
A fully illustrated version of this essay is available on request.
[i] Peeter Boel, oil on canvas, 212 x 255 cm. Montreal Museum of Fine Art, inv. no. 1965_1518_IN3
[ii]Peeter Boel, signed, oil on canvas, 122,5 x 210 cm. Art market, Spain, 2009
[iii]Peeter Boel, oil on canvas, 116 x 127 cm. Soisson, Musée Saint-Léger (deposited by Musée de Louvre, Paris)
[iv]Peeter Boel, oil on canvas, 27,8 x 35,2 cm. Dulwich Picture Gallery Acs.no. DPG594
[v]Peeter Boel, oil on canvas, 90,2 x 125,3 cm. International art market, 1986/2021
[vi]Peeter Boel, oil on canvas, 105 x 77 cm. Art market, Germany, 1911