Sunday, May 6, 2018

Cats in Art: Fishmongers at Their Stalls (Snyders)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art.  Having moved on from Stefano Zuffi's marvelous work, The Cat in ArtI am now using some ideas from Caroline Bugler's equally impressive book, The Cat/3500 Years of the Cat in Art.  You really should check out and/or own both of these wonderful works, easily available on Amazon or eBay (and I have no financial interest).

The bride and I just returned from a wonderful vacation in France where we were privileged to see both the Louvre and Orsay Museums.  Of the two, the Orsay was much better--less crowded, could get closer to the paintings, more cats.

Image credit The Athenaeum, Fishmongers at Their Stalls (or more simply, Fish Stall), Frans Snyders, ca 1616, oil on canvas, 6' 10" x 11' 2", held by State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Hermitage web site tells us that Snyders painted a number of quite similar scenes, that fortunately are held by the museum.  This descriptor actually relates to another painting in the series  but the background facts pertain:

The Hermitage has 14 paintings by the famous Flemish painter of animals, hunting scenes and still lifes, Frans Snyders. Son of the owner of one of the largest restaurants in Antwerp, famous for its abundance of vegetables, fruit, fish and game, Snyders found rich material for his paintings. Snyders created his own individual concept of still life painting, which was monumental, decorative and dynamic. A characteristic example of this is the series of four market stalls commissioned from Snyders by Jacques van Ophem, powerful representative of the administration of Archduke Albert and the Infanta Isabella - the Spanish viceroys in the Southern Netherlands.

The Fishmarket shows a seemingly endless variety of the inhabitants of rivers, seas and lakes, depicted by Snyders with almost biological precision. The human figures give the canvas something of the feel of a genre painting: one is catching eels in a wooden tub, another is cutting a fish into pieces, while in the background the life of a sea port unfolds.

And of course the kitty close-up, of a very poorly behaved feline:

Of course, if I were a cat in 1600s Russia, I'd likely be trying to score some fish too.  All we can see is the poor cat's head and front paws, desperately trying to get some food.

Did you notice the size of this painting?  It's eleven feet wide and six feet tall.  Wow!  Can you imagine standing in the Hermitage Museum, right in front of this canvas, and being able to see the rich tableau of seafood, and to be able to scope out the cat directly instead of via this rather fuzzy enlargement?

Sounds like a road trip!  Actually, a faithful copy of this painting hangs in the Louvre, while the original is at the Hermitage.  Vitoux and Foucart-Walter's book Cats in the Louvre provides that nugget of info.

[Gary note: With my Cats in Arts posts, I encourage you to scope out the art appreciation site Artsy (I have no financial interest in the site, I just like it), where you can explore many aspects of the world of art.  You'll certainly be entertained and enlightened!]

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