Frans Snyders or Frans Snijders (11
November 1579, Antwerp – 19 August 1657, Antwerp) was a Flemish painter of
animals, hunting scenes, market scenes and still lifes. He was one of the
earliest specialist animaliers and he is credited with initiating a wide
variety of new still-life and animal subjects in Antwerp. He was a regular
collaborator with leading Antwerp painters such as Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony
van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens.
Snyders was born in Antwerp as the son of Jan Snijders, the keeper of a wine inn
frequented by artists. According to legend the famous 16th century painter Frans
Floris squandered his fortune in the inn. Snyders’ mother was Maria Gijsbrechts.
Snyders had five siblings. His brother Michiel also became a painter but no works
of him are known.
Snyders was recorded as a student of Pieter Brueghel the Younger in 1593, and
subsequently trained with Hendrick van Balen, who was the first master of Anthony
van Dyck. Snyders became a master of the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke in 1602. He
travelled to Italy in 1608-9 where he first resided in Rome. The artist
subsequently traveled from Rome to Milan. Jan Brueghel the Elder had introduced him
there by letter to the famous art collector Cardinal Borromeo. Brueghel asked
Snyders to paint a copy after a portrait by Titian in the Borromeo collection. This
is regarded as evidence that Snyders was a skilled figure painter before he turned
his attention to still life painting.
Snyders had returned to Antwerp in the spring of 1609. In 1611 he married
Margaretha, the sister of Cornelis de Vos and Paul de Vos, two leading painters in
Antwerp. His collaboration with Rubens started in the 1610s.
Snyders had many patrons including the Ghent Bishop Antonius Triest who
commissioned four paintings of market scenes around 1615 (Hermitage Museum, Saint
Petersburg). He was a friend of van Dyck who painted Snyders and his wife more than
once (Frick Collection, Kassel etc.). Snyders was commercially successful and was
able to purchase a house on the high-end Keizerstraat in Antwerp. In 1628 he became
the dean of the Guild of Saint Luke.
In the period 1636-1638 he was one of the Antwerp artists who assisted Rubens in
a large commission for decorations for the hunting pavilion Torre de la Parada of
Philip IV of Spain. The two artists also worked together on decorations for the
Royal Alcazar of Madrid and the royal Buen Retiro Palace in Madrid. Snyders painted
about 60 hunting paintings and animal pieces after designs by Rubens. In 1639
Rubens and Snyders received a follow-up commission for an additional 18 paintings
for the hunting pavilion.
After Peter Paul Rubens’ death Snyders acted as one of the appraisers of the
inventory of Rubens' collection.
In the years 1641 and 1642 Snyders traveled with other artists to the Dutch
Republic. In 1646 Snyders was probably in Breda working on a commission. Snyders
became a widower in 1647. He died himself on 19 August 1657 in Antwerp. As he died
childless he bequeathed his fortune to his sister, a beguine. The Antwerp art
dealer Matthijs Musson acquired his extensive art collection which included works
of leading 16th and 17th century Flemish and Dutch artists such as Rubens, Anthony
van Dyck, Hendrick van Balen, Jan Breughel the Elder, Pieter Bruegel the Elder,
Joos van Cleve, Coninxloo, Jacob Foppens van Es, Willem Claeszoon Heda, Jacob
Jordaens, Lucas van Leyden, Jan Lievens, Lambert Lombard, Jan Massys, Joachim
Patinir, Adriaen van Utrecht and Frans Ykens.
He had many apprentices: his pupils are believed to have included Nicasius
Bernaerts, Peter van Boucle, Juriaen Jacobsze, Jan Roos (I) and Paul de Vos. Jan
Fyt (Joannes Fijt) was a student, and then assistant of Snyders from 1629. Peter
van Boucle claimed that he was a pupil of Frans Snijders but there are no written
sources available in Antwerp that support this contention. However, there are
stylistic similarities in van Boucle's works which suggest that he worked in the
circle of Frans Snyders.
Snyders initially devoted himself to painting flowers, fruit and still lifes.
Later he turned to painting animals. He was particularly interested in depicting
wild animals, which he showed engaged in lively hunts and fierce combats. He was
one of the earliest specialist animaliers. His work as an animal painter was very
influential on his contemporaries as well as on 18th-century French animaliers such
as Jean-Baptiste Oudry and François Desportes. Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin's
masterpiece The Ray recalls Snyders’ pictorial strength.
His residence in Italy is believed to have had an important influence on his
style of fruit painting. He is likely to have seen Caravaggio's Basket of Fruit in
Cardinal Borremeo's collection in Milan.