Jan Weenix (Amsterdam 1640/1642-1719)
Jan Weenix (Amsterdam 1640/1642-1719)

Dead hares, jackdaws and a partridge with a spaniel upsetting a basket of pigeons, a lake and formal garden beyond

Jan Weenix (Amsterdam 1640/1642-1719)
Dead hares, jackdaws and a partridge with a spaniel upsetting a basket of pigeons, a lake and formal garden beyond
signed and indistinctly dated 'J. Weenix F. / 170[0?]' (upper right)
oil on canvas, unframed
48 ¾ x 40 in. (123.7 x 101.6 cm.)
Johanna Tyler (Tijler), window of Lucas van Beek [van Beck?]; De Leth & De Bosch, Amsterdam, 30 April 1759, lot 5 (340 fl. to Quikhart[?]).
Benjamin West (1738-1820); his sale (†), Christie's, London, 23 June 1820 [=2nd day], lot 79 (unsold);
his sale (†), Raphael & Benjamin West, London, 10 June 1822, lot 1 (unsold);
his sale (†), Christie's, London, 28 May 1824, lot 75 (unsold).
with Slatter, London, 1943.
with M.B. Asscher Gallery, London, 1957.
Anonymous sale [Property of a Lady]; Christie's, London, 13 December 1985, lot 80 (£36,720).
with B. Meissner, Zurich, 1986.
with Noortman (Maastricht) BV, 20 April 1995.
Private collection, Switzerland, 1995.
with Otto Naumann, New York, 15 July 1998, from whom acquired.
R.J. Ginnings, The Art of Jan Baptist Weenix and Jan Weenix, PhD dissertation, University of Delaware, 1970, p. 269, no. 190.
A.A. van Wagenberg-Ter Hoeven, Jan Weenix The Paintings: Master of the Dutch Hunting Still Life, Zwolle, 2018, pp. 237-239, no. 132, illustrated.
Sale room notice
Please note this work is unframed, as stated in the catalogue.

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Imogen Jones
Imogen Jones

Lot Essay

This refined treatment of one of Weenix’s most popular subjects dates to 1700, when the artist’s fame and success was reaching its apogee. Weenix revolutionised his approach to game pieces in the second half of the seventeenth century, transforming them from the traditional kitchen interiors and pantries to outdoor settings, thereby creating quasi-narratives in which the objects portrayed could be read as trophies, casually set down by hunters alongside their hunting accessories in the grounds of their palatial estates. Weenix first explored the specific theme of the dead-hare-in-a-garden in the early 1680s, starting with his celebrated Dead Hare of 1682/83 (Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle). Over the following decades, he would return to it on numerous occasions, continuously refining and elaborating his compositions while incorporating a more decorative style consistent with the French tastes of his international clientele (see A.A. van Wagenberg-Ter Hoeven, op. cit., p. 31). As in the present work, Weenix typically set these still life arrangements against a large stone urn, situated within a vast garden landscape with classical architecture in the distance. Here, he populated the background with elegantly-dressed figures who stroll along the water bank, passing by a fountain that cascades down a series of steps into the river.

Weenix infuses his composition with a certain sense of drama by juxtaposing the hunting trophies with live animals. At right, a delicately-rendered spaniel chases a flying pigeon while at left, a servant and a second dog appear to flush out the birds above them. In the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries, hunting was exclusively the privilege of the nobility and it was illegal for the increasingly wealthy mercantile class to participate in the sport. Accordingly, paintings such as this, with their association with wealth and fashion, were highly popular by Weenix’s aristocratic clients, lending them a ‘mark of social prestige’ (ibid., p. 35).

In the early-nineteenth century, this painting belonged to Benjamin West, the first American artist to achieve an international reputation and to influence artistic trends in Europe. Upon his death in March 1820, West had outstanding debts of a little over £10,000. James Christie personally reviewed the artist’s collection at West’s Newman Street home on 27 April, and ultimately arranged with the artist’s son and executor, Raphael, to offer the collection of Old Masters in a series of sales. The Weenix must have been regarded by the family as a work of particular importance, since it was offered with a reserve that ultimately proved to be too high, leading the work to remain unsold, despite being described in the catalogue as ‘one of the finest specimens of the master’.

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