Exhibition: Still-life with Servant Girl - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

The guest work


2009-01-16 • 2009-03-29

Still-life with Servant Girl

Room 7

Game, fruit, vegetables and other fresh produce, shellfish and an embossed bronze pot with two chicks perched, wings flapping, on the rim, stand on a low table covered by a red tablecloth. At the back, to the left of the chicks, is the head of a wild boar. In front of the table, in the bottom left hand corner, a dog and a cat tussle for food. Above, a somewhat distracted servant girl fills the left hand side of the picture.

The sharp diagonal of forms arranged in no apparent order and the basket with rabbits in the right foreground are signs of the influence of Rubens on his followers and disciples of the Antwerp school. The dead buck and white swan recall motifs used by Snyders in some well-known paintings now in Belgium's Musées Royaux (no. 4,951), the Museum of Marseilles and the Hertveld Gallery, Antwerp. There are some notable, although only partial, analogies with paintings in the old Schörboern Collection and Sotheby's London sale (1962); the differences lie in the face of the young girl and the head of the buck, which hangs weightless in this version and rests on a table in works by Snyders. Paul de Vos's submission to the models of Snyders justifies the traditional attribution to Rubens' colleague, and disciple of Brueghel, widely accepted in Spain and in authoritative texts, although Palomino does also mention Paul de Vos, a painter of equal stature and likewise a colleague of Rubens.

We restore the painting to Snyders' disciple Paul de Vos, who specialized in paintings of animals and the still life. De Vos's receptivity to his master explains the continuing confusion of the critics in works such as Cook in the pantry in the Prado (no. 1,765); attributed to Snyders in the official catalogues, to the studio in the 1976 edition and recently restored to Paul de Vos (El siglo de Rubens en el Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1955); and inventoried in the Alcázar, in the Cierzo gallery (Y. Bottineau: «L´Alcázar de Madrid et l´inventaire de 1686», Bulletin Hispanique, 58, 1958), and in Madrid's Palacio del Buen Retiro, in 1686 and 1700, under Snyders.

From his early beginnings under Snyders' close influence, where solid forms and compact execution were the norm, Paul de Vos evolved to a much more personal mature style, rich in atmospheres and fluid design, that in some aesthetic aspects even surpassed his master. The studio copy is a richly executed, brilliantly coloured work of high quality.

Similar paintings by Paul de Vos previously attributed to Snyders are to be found in the Museum of Valenciennes (no. 102), the Château des Carrières and in private collections in Madrid (Christie's, London, 1819, VII, 1974, no. 210; M. Díaz Padrón: Archivo Español de Arte, 1986, p. 146). The dog and cat group also features in Still-life, donated by the Marquis of Leganés to Philip IV, in the Prado Museum (no. 1.767).

Matías Díaz Padrón


Paul de Vos (Hulst, 1596-Antwerp, 1678)
Still-Life With Servant Girl, 1668
Oil on canvas, 187 x 216 cm
Santander Collection