Frans Snyders was baptised in Antwerp in 1579, and by 1593 is listed as a student of Pieter Brueghel the Younger, although he seems to have actually received his training from Pieter’s younger brother Jan Brueghel. An independent master by 1602, Snyders visited Italy in 1608, where he may have met Peter Paul Rubens for the first time. Beginning around 1610, Rubens and Snyders – who were only two years apart in age - established a close working relationship that lasted for some thirty years, with Snyders adding still life elements to Rubens’s paintings. Snyders also collaborated on paintings with Anthony Van Dyck, Jan Boeckhorst, Abraham Janssens and other artists. Continuing the tradition of elaborate still life painting in Flanders established by the kitchen interiors of Joachim Beuckelaer and Pieter Aertsen in the 16th century, he soon became the foremost practitioner of the genre in Antwerp in the first half of the 17th century. Never short of commissions for still life paintings from the prosperous citizens of Antwerp, Snyders also enjoyed the patronage of Philip IV of Spain, for whom he painted around sixty hunting scenes for the Torre de la Parada and the Palacio Real in Madrid. He was able to earn a considerable fortune, augmented by his occasional activity as an art dealer, and his large, abundant gamepieces exerted a powerful influence on later Flemish painting.
Still life drawings of the 17th century are rare, and less than forty drawings of this type of larder or market scenes by Snyders are known, of which several important examples are in the British Museum. It has been a matter of some scholarly debate as to whether such drawings were preliminary studies for paintings or were instead made after the painting was finished, as a record of the composition. Such drawings by Snyders may also have been kept in the workshop, to be reused by pupils and assistants for painted versions of the master’s still life compositions.
While no painting related to the present sheet is known, many of the same elements shown here appear in other still life compositions by Snyders. The prominent motif of a boar’s head - a hunting trophy - placed in a copper tureen, for example, is found in several paintings and drawings by the artist, and appears in a manner particularly close to that in the present sheet in a late signed painting in the Hannema-De Stuers Fundatie in Overijssel. (The depiction of a boar’s head, as one modern scholar has suggested, may also have had emblematic connotations in 17th century Flanders; ‘the beast’s gaping mouth, fearsome tusks and lubricious snout evoke a multitude of symbolic associations, ranging from sexual virility and lechery to the sinner, the heretic and the devil.’) Stylistically, this drawing may be compared with such still life drawings by Snyders as a study of a Dead Game, Fruit and Vegetables in the Musée du Louvre in Paris. A weak copy of the present sheet was on the art market in Belgium in 1960.