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 Pieter Boel  (1622 - 1674)

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Lived/Active: Flemish      Known for: painting

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
A swan, rabbit and other game with a parrot, dogs, fruit and metalwork in a classical landscape
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Christie's London, King Street:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Born into an artistic family in Antwerp, Boel was a pupil of the animal painter Jan Fyt (1611-1661).  After traveling to Italy as a young man, he settled in Paris in circa 1668 where he joined the great tapestry workshop established by Charles Le Brun (1619-1690).

Like his former master Fyt, Boel came to specialize in painting animals and he was particularly renowned for the striking realism of his pictures.  He made studies for them from specimens in the royal menageries at Versailles and in Paris. 

Porcupines had particular symbolism for the French royal family: their ancestor Louis, Duke of Orléans, had established the chivalric Order of the Porcupine in 1394, drawing on the animal's reputation for invincibility and, even though the Order itself was abolished by King Louis XII, the porcupine remained one of his personal emblems.

The animals consequently appear several times in Boel's oil sketches for the royal tapestry works: one, in a similar pose to that in the present drawing, can be seen in a tapestry representing August in a cycle of the Months (see E. Foucart-Walter, Pieter Boel 1622-1674: Peintre des animaux de Louis XIV, exhib. cat., Paris, Louvre, 2001, p. 89, fig. 15).  This cycle, consisting of twelve tapestries woven at the Manufacture des Gobelins, had been commissioned from Charles Le Brun in around 1668: each tapestry represented a particular month along with one of the French royal palaces.

Le Brun engaged other artists to help with his designs for this prestigious commission, each according to their strengths: Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer (1636-1699) executed the flowers and plants, while Baudouin Yvart (1611-1690) painted the draperies and Boel the animals.  An oil sketch used for this commission, showing three porcupines, was among the eighty studies transferred from the Manufacture des Gobelins to the Louvre during the French Revolution; it is now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rennes (Foucart-Walter, op. cit., no. 70).

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