• NameFrans Snyders
  • Sexmale
  • Nationality/DatesFlemish, born 1579, dead 1657
BiographyPainter of animals, hunts and still lifes. Active
at Antwerp, where he was apprenticed to Pieter
Brueghel II in 1593. According to an inscription
accompanying his portrait in J. Meyssens’ Images de
divers hommes d’esprit sublime (1649), Frans Snyders
was also a pupil of Hendrick van Balen. He became a
master in the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke in 1602. In
early 1608 he travelled to Rome, and then to Milan:
on September 26, 1608, Jan Brueghel I wrote to Cardinal
Federico Borromeo in Milan, and to his secretary
Ercole Bianchi, that Snyders was on his way
there from Rome. Brueghel’s warm praise (“one of
the best painters of Antwerp”) gained Snyders the
important patronage of the Cardinal. By July 4, 1609,
Snyders had returned to Antwerp, where he married
Margriete de Vos, sister of the painters Cornelis and
Paul de Vos, on October 23, 1611. He joined the
exclusive Guild of Romanists in 1619 and was elected
Dean in 1628. Snyders’ work was highly esteemed
during his lifetime, and he carried out work for the
Archdukes Albert and Isabella, for the City of
Antwerp, the States-General in Brussels and Dudley
Carlton, English ambassador to the United Provinces
at The Hague. Snyders died at Antwerp, a successful
and wealthy painter.
Snyders painted still lifes with vegetables, fruit and
game. He gained a reputation for his ability to represent
game, especially dead game, and his game pieces
fetched high prices in the market. Calling Snyders an
innovator of still life, Greindl (1983) asserted that
from the earliest stage of his career his conception of
still life was fundamentally different from that of his
contemporaries. Pointing to the spatial construction
and vitality of his pictures, she identified his style as
Baroque, and his sensitivity to colour made him “one
of the greatest colourists of the Flemish school”. The
most powerful artistic force acting on Snyders,
according to both Greindl and Robels (1989), was
Peter Paul Rubens, who furnished him with key compositional
ideas. Dated works by Snyders, unfortunately
quite rare, range from 1603 to 1651, while
motifs and colours hardly change during the course of
his lengthy career. Nevertheless, Robels (1969, 1989)
constructed a credible chronology for his oeuvre. By
the early to mid-1610s, Snyders’ characteristic personal
style, with its flowing movement and glowing
colours, had reached full maturity. In the 1630s, tonal
unity appears together with a warmer palette, paralleling
Rubens’ colouristic preferences in the same
decade; the pictures are also more monumental than
in the 1620s. Snyders’ transformation of the large
kitchen-market type of still lifes by Pieter Aertsen and
Joachim Beuckelaer into a Baroque idiom was decisive
for such Flemish specialists as Adriaen van
Utrecht, Paul de Vos and Jan Fyt. He was also famous
for his lively depictions of animals in hunting and
genre scenes, the earliest of which date from around
1615. Cornelis de Bie (1662) thus praised the artist
for his life-like hunting scenes: “See Snyders at the
hunt, how beautifully done after life, /he knew how to
give great fame to this sweet art”. Judging from the
many contemporary copies made of his paintings,
Snyders must have run a sizeable workshop. Although
only three apprentices are inscribed in the guild registry
(Melchior Weldenck, 1609; Hendrik Joris, 1616;
and Nicasius Bernaerts, 1633), there certainly were
others, including his brother-in-law Paul de Vos, who
followed his style in still lifes and hunting scenes, and
Jan Fyt, who continued working with Snyders even
after becoming an independent master in 1629. Snyders
worked with Rubens, with whom he collaborated,
in 1637–1638, on the decoration of mythologies
and hunting scenes for the Torre de la Parada, the
hunting lodge of King Philip IV of Spain, and who
recruited him from time to time to paint still life elements
and live animals in his larger compositions. He
also collaborated frequently with the landscape specialist
Jan Wildens and with Anthony van Dyck, Cornelis
de Vos, Abraham Janssens, Jacob Jordaens and