Born in Antwerp to a family of artists, Boel came in contact with key innovators of Flemish still-life painting early in his career. According to Félibien, he studied with Frans Snyders (1579-1657), while Jan-Erasmus Quellinus states that he was a pupil of Snyders' student Jan Fyt (1611-1661; see P. C. Sutton, Age of Rubens, exhibition catalogue, Boston, 1993, p. 572) Working in this tight-knit community and frequently collaborating with other artists such as Erasmus Quellinus II and Jacob Jordaens, Boel created paintings that recall those of his presumed teacher Jan Fyt. Fyt, who spent time in France and Italy, devised still-lifes combining fruit and game, often with a curtain in an outdoor architectural setting (see Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, inv. 50.2728, of c. 1645, with figures by Erasmus Quellinius II, father of Jan-Erasmus). Fyt's motifs in the Boston picture such as the straw basket brimming with fruit, small monkey at left, dog at right, swan, peacock and rabbit all appear in the present work. As noted by Greindl, elements of the present work recur as well in Boel's own oeuvre, and this composition bears a strong resemblance to a smaller picture on the Brussels art market in 1971 by his son, Jan-Baptist Boel (see E. Greindl, Les peintres flamands de nature morte au XVIIe siècle, Sterrebeek, 1960, pp. 113, 339, 403, no. 7, fig. 40).
The deep shadows and pronounced highlights of A swan, rabbit and other game with a parrot, dogs, fruit and metalwork in a classical landscape also reflect the impact of Boel's Italian sojourn. Most likely in the 1640s, Boel departed for Rome and Genoa, where his uncle, artist and dealer Cornelis Wael (1592-1667), resided. There he encountered the work of Italian painters like the Genoese Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609-1664) and the still-lifes of Giuseppe Recco (1634-1695). Back in Utrecht, where he became a master in the Guild of St. Luke in 1650, Boel created pictures evocative of Italian works in their dramatic tonalities and vigorous handling. The present picture likely dates to the late 1650s, as certain elements, such as the angled ornate salver and cracked melons, are similar to Elaborate still life with fruits, vegetables, a salver and swan before a distant landscape formerly with Richard L. Feigen & Co., which is dated 1657. Also comparable to the present work in its dark shadows and strong handling is Boel's monumental picture dated 1663 in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille (inv. 78), in which the vanitas message suggests one possible interpretation for his typical juxtaposition of dead game and luxury objects (see Masterworks from the Musée Des Beaux-arts, Lille, exhibition catalogue, New York, pp. 79-81, no. 7).