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Still Life with a Red Curtain, c. 1660

Jan Fyt
Flemish, 1611-1661
Oil on canvas
43 x 62-1/2 in. (109.2 x 158.8 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

Jan Fyt, a prosperous Antwerp artist who enjoyed the patronage of numerous important collectors, was a prolific painter of still lifes. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the genre was the game piece, a distinct category devoted to the hunt, in which the results of the day’s efforts are gathered for contemplation. Here, the hunter’s trophies—hares, ducks and songbirds—are formally arranged in a pyramidal scheme, with the suspended hare marking the center of the tabletop. This painting is an occasion for Fyt’s bravura display of brushwork in the laying down of fur and feathers and the warm, tonal palette. Below the catch, the foils of red drapery and white linen furnish the ensemble with dramatic flair.

Depictions of bagged animals, commissioned by the nobility, date back to the Renaissance. In seventeenth-century Europe, hunting remained, for the most part, the privilege of the nobility. Owning such a painting betokened social prestige, whether or not it recorded the spoils of a specific hunt. Fyt’s game pieces were eagerly acquired by the urban elite to decorate their houses and thereby associate themselves with a lifestyle reserved for aristocrats.

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