In the present still life, set in a verdant landscape, a hare rests on a slab of gray stone, its rear legs suspended in the branches of an oak. At the base of the stone, a partridge sits next to a pile of peaches; meanwhile a cat creeps out of the underbrush to swipe at the bird, its eyes glowing in anticipation of its trophy. Desportes' skillful brushwork describes the contrasting textures of fur, feathers and foliage, and his vibrant palette is comprised of vivid cerulean and viridian hues, shades of brown and ochre, and the golden yellow-orange of the peaches, all highlighted with patches of white.
Alexandre-François Desportes was a French artist who studied with Nicasius Bernaert, an animal painter and pupil of Frans Snyders. He spent most of his career working in the Flemish realist tradition and specialized in hunting scenes and still lifes with game. After a brief period at the court in Poland working as a portrait painter, Desportes was employed by Louis XIV, and then by Louis XV as portrait painter to the royal hunt. He was received at the Académie in 1699 as a 'painter of animal scenes'. Desportes' plein air landscapes, studies of the french countryside which later appeared as backdrops in his more formal compositions, were highly unusual for the time.
We are grateful to M. Michel Faré for confirming the attribution to Desportes (written communication, 17 November 1978). M. Faré notes the 'superb composition' of this painting, as well as the artist's skillful depiction of light and shadow.