Vermoelen was born in Antwerp, where he trained under Peter Snyers and where he is listed as a member of the painters' guild in 1733 and 1734. No subsequent record of his activity is known until he executed the present pictures in Rome in 1748. Only about a dozen other works are known, all depicting dead birds and curiously all dated between 1751 and 1755, at Uppark (see La pittura del '700 a Roma, ed. S. Rudolph, Milan, 1983, pl. 705), Visovice, Stuttgart, Schleissheim, the University of Wurzburg and the Castle of Emkendorf in Holstein and in the Rapp Collection, Stockholm (Coekelberghs, loc. cit., fig. 253).
The present pictures have until now only been known from old photographs and the inscription on the reverse has not been recorded. This identifies them as from the collection of Cardinal Silvio Valenti Gonzaga (1690-1756), presumably their first owner, thus providing information hitherto entirely lacking about Vermoelen's clientele. Valenti Gonzaga, born in Mantua, went at an early age to Rome, where he had a brilliant career, becoming a Cardinal in 1738 and two years later Secretary of State under Pope Benedict XIV. He was one of the greatest art collectors and patrons of his day, acquiring over eight hundred paintings which were housed in a casino designed by Panini adjoining his villa. Many of his most prized possessions are shown in the well-known imaginary view of his gallery commissioned from Panini in 1749 and now in the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford (F. Arisi, Gian Paolo Panini e i fasti della Roma del '700, Rome, 1986, p. 430, no. 400, illustrated, and p. 159, pls. 166-7)