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By Savery, Roelandt (Dutch, 1576-1639)
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This important oil painting is by the Dutch Golden Are artist Roelandt Savery, who lived from 1576 to 1639. The painting portrays a paradisical landscape, utterly unreal in its feeling and discernibly something of the imagination. Set within a shallow valley meadow, in a greying light that is not quite daylight but not quite night—the crepuscular rays perhaps from the Sun or maybe the Moon—is a veritable menagerie of animals. There is a skewbald, heifers, stags, a maned lion, goats, parrots, and a whole host of other birds and creatures, all of whom sit or stand in patient silence beside the trickling valley stream.
Set to the left middle ground is a scene of the conversation of St Hubert, who was converted to Christianity by the apparition of a speaking crucifix between the antlers of a stag. This small inclusion lends a Christian character to the work, and explains, perhaps, an element of the painting’s disquieting nature—a product of its subject matter and its indefinable light.
Savery was fascinated with nature and with animals. His passion seems to have stemmed from his long stay at the court of Rudolph II in Prague from about 1604 to 1613. By then, Rudolph had amassed the greatest cabinet of curiosities of his age; in order to enrich is collection still further, to satisfy his lust for ‘wondrous’ things, he sent Savery to the Tyrol in 1606-07 with the express purpose of drawing such wonders.
Savery brought back to Prague volumes of sketches and finished drawings of the Tyrolean landscape, including waterfalls, rivers, and mountain peaks. Back at the court in Prague, the great menagerie of Rudolph provided inspiration for Savery’s drawings, which he combined with the types of landscapes seen in the Tyrol.
Several years later, after his return to Amsterdam, Savery began to combine menageries and exotic landscapes with biblical or mythological subjects; this he continued until at least 1627, when the present painting was executed.
The oil on oak panel painting is signed and dated lower right ‘ROELANDT / SAVERFE / 1627’. It is contained within a carved wooden frame.
Frame: Height 55cm, width 71cm, depth 5cm
Panel: Height 38cm, width 54cm, depth 1.5cm
Provenance: From an anonymous sale in Paris ("La Succession de Madame X).
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