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Concert of Birds
Snyders, Frans
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Snyders, Frans

Antwerp, 1579 - Antwerp, 1657

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Concert of Birds

1629 - 1630. Oil on canvas.
Room 081

In the composition, an owl on a branch directs a chorus of fifteen other types of birds while holding a score between its feet. Such images of different species of birds perched on tree trunks, sometimes with musical scores, were known as Concerts of birds and were popularized by Flemish artists in the early decades of the 17th century, especially Frans Snyders. They were quite common at that time, and the I Marquis of Leganés, don Diego Messía Felípez de Guzmán, had as may as four in his collection, two of which are now at the Museo del Prado, both by Snyders (P01758 and P01761). Two others also entered the Museo del Prado: one by Snyders (P07160) and the other by his disciple, Jan Fyt (P01534). During the first half of the 17th century, few collectors in Madrid had works by Snyders, but they became more common in the second half of the century, when they hung in houses and palaces around the city (including the homes of the Admiral of Castile and don Luis Méndez de Haro). This subject actually antedates the baroque custom of aviaries; it began in the Middle Ages and Snyders was not the first to explore it in paintings, as there were numerous representations of Aeolus with the Birds in the final years of the 16th century. Northern European collectors used these works as decorations above doors or windows, or in front of fireplaces, and the fashion later spread to Spain. Their symbolic significance is linked to representations of Franciscan birds associated with the worship of the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Birds, which began in 13th century. Legend has it that birds flocked to a beech grove outside Brussels, drawn by an image of the Virgin resting among the tree branches. As a result, that city, which is the capital of Flanders, had a Franciscan chapel with this avocation. It was destroyed by the Iconoclasts in the 16th century but rebuilt at the end of that same century, with birdcages hanging from the ceiling so that their inhabitants could contribute to the temple’s particular liturgy with their song. This affinity has often been mentioned in relation the Snyders’ desire to be buried in a Franciscan habit. The Concerts of Birds have also been considered allusions to the sense of hearing, although that interpretation is unclear. Other readings allude to the possibility that they represent wisdom via the owl -in Western painting, owls frequently symbolize that concept- who sometimes seems to be directing those bucolic concerts. Moreover, these concerts of birds symbolically refer to concerted order in nature, a sense of balance with nature embodied by the musical systematization of birdsong. Thus, in general, their meaning involves the political and social order enjoyed by the owners of these paintings under the rule of Archduke Albert of Austria and Isabel Clara Eugenia. That explains their popularity in bourgeois and aristocratic homes, from whence they entered the leading museums. The subject was much exploited by Snyders’ followers, both in Flanders and France. In the Spanish Netherlands, these included Paul de Vos, Jan Fyt and Jan Van Kessel and in the Dutch Republic the subject was revised by artists such as Gysbert, Melchior d’Hondecoeter, Abraham Bisschot and Jacobus Victors to make it more courtly. In France, it was explored by Nicasius Bernaerts and Pieter Boel. Here, as in many of Frans Snyders’ compositions, the largest birds at the ends protect the smaller ones. Some of the species are foreign to Europe, including the Raggi Bird of Paradise, from New Guinea and Australia, or the Blue-fronted Amazon from South America. Other species identified in this work include the Hoopoe, the Eurasian Jay, the Bohemian Waxwing and the Eurasian Bullfinch, among others. As to the score held by the owl: some fragments of the titles of the voices are legible and appear to be written in French, although neither the composer nor the work have been identified. It appears to be a four-voice composition, possibly a French song. The music and lyrics are written in what appears to be a notebook with four voice parts (Text drawn from: Pérez Preciado, J. J.: Arte y Diplomacia de la Monarquía Hispánica en el siglo XVII, 2003. pp. 281-285).


Technical data

Inventory number
Snyders, Frans
Concert of Birds
1629 - 1630
Height: 98 cm; Width: 137 cm
Collection of the I Marquis of Leganés, given to Philip IV, 1652-55, no. 163; Royal Collection (Real Alcázar, Madrid, “lower summer quarters”, 1636, no. 860).

Bibliography +

Inventario y Tasacion de Todos los Cuadros Que Existen en el..., s.n, 1834.

La Musica en las Artes Plasticas, Sociedad Española de Amigos Arte, Madrid, 1967.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, Museo del Prado: catálogo de pinturas. Escuela flamenca, Museo del Prado; Patrimonio Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1975.

Os descobrimentos portugueses e a Europa do renascimento, XVII EXPOSIÇAO EUROPEIA DE ARTE..., Consello Da Europa, Lisboa, 1983.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 645.

Robels, Hella, Frans Snyders. Stibellen-Und Tiermaler 1579-1657, Deutscher Kunstverlag, Munich, 1989, pp. 304,305/ lám.194.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. 392.

De Bruegel a Rubens. L'Ecole de Peinture Anversoise 1550-165, SnoeckDucalu & Zoon, Antwerpen, 1992.

Buendía, José Rogelio, El Prado. Colecciones de Pintura, Lunwerg Editores, Barcelona, 1994, pp. 435.

Koslow, Susan, Frans Snyders. Peintre Animalier et de Natures Mortes 1579-1, Fonds Mercator Paribas, Anvers, 1995, pp. 292.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, El siglo de Rubens en el Museo del Prado: catálogo razonado, Prensa Ibérica, Barcelona, 1996, pp. 1254.

Benito Olmos, Aurora, Arte y Música en el Museo del Prado, Debates sobre Arte, 3, Fundacion Argentaria Visor, Madrid, 1997, pp. 154.

El arte en la corte de los archiduques Alberto de Austria e Isabel Clara Eugenia (1598-1633): un reino imaginado, Sociedad Estatal para la Conmemoración de los Centenarios de Felipe II y Carlos V, Madrid, 1999, pp. 254.

Voldere, Florence De, La Peinture Flamande du XVI Aux XVIII Siecle Un Relais D'Ide, Flammarion, Barcelone, 2001, pp. 301.

De Tiziano a Goya: grandes maestros del Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado: SEACEX, Madrid, 2007, pp. 258.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, El lienzo de Vertumno y Pomona de Rubens y los cuartos bajos de verano del Alcázar de Madrid, Rubens Picture Ltd., 2009, pp. 64.

Blanco, Miguel Angel, Historias naturales: un proyecto de Miguel Ángel Blanco, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2013, pp. 90-93, 124.

Maurer, G., 'La caza. Descanso en la cacería.' En:, Mena Marques,Manuela B. Goya en Madrid : cartones para tapices 1775-1794, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2014, pp. 72-81 [74 f.1.40].

Martínez Leiva, Gloria; Rodríguez Rebollo, Ángel, El inventario del Alcázar de Madrid de 1666. Felipe IV y su colección artística, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid, 2015, pp. 293 nº 193.

Pérez Preciado, José Juan, 'Reyes Gobernadores, Nobles, Funcionarios y Artistas. La incesante llegada de obas de arte a España desde los Paises Bajos en el s.XVII', Aragón y Flandes. Un encuentro artístico (siglos XV-XVII), Universidad de Zaragoza, Zaragoza, 2015, pp. 132-142 [140].

L'Odysse des animaux: les peintres animaliers flamands au XVII siècles, Snoeck,, 2016, pp. 47.

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1452.
Sneyders. / 1452. Música de pájaros. / Varios generos de aves repartidos por un arbol, y otros volando cantan, haciendo un mochuelo de maestro de capilla. / Alto 3 pies, 6 pulg; Ancho 5 pies, 6 lin.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 1452.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 1685.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 1758.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1933. Núm. 1758.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 1758.

Inv. Felipe IV, Alcázar de Madrid, 1636. Núm. 860.
[860] Capilla de Aues. Otros tres lienços de pintura, que tienen de largo cinco pies y medio, con molduras doradas y negras, de menos labor que las dichas, que el uno es una capilla de música de diferentes aues sentadas sobre un tronco de Áruol y un mochuelo que tiene el libro de la solfa.

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

Goya in Madrid
28.11.2014 - 03.05.2015

Historias Naturales
19.11.2013 - 27.04.2014

El arte en la corte de los archiduques Alberto e Isabel Clara Eugenia (1598-1633). Un reino imaginario
02.12.1999 - 27.02.2000

Die antwerpener malerschule 1550-1650 (La Escuela de Amberes 1550-1650)
01.04.1993 - 20.06.1993

Die antwerpener malerschule 1550-1650 (La Escuela de Amberes 1550-1650)
19.12.1992 - 07.03.1993

Die antwerpener malerschule 1550-1650 (La Escuela de Amberes 1550-1650)
04.09.1992 - 22.11.1992

Location +

Room 081 (On Display)


Displayed objects +

Music, Illegible: Partitura en la que se distinguen algunas palabras, pero la música misma parece ilegible. Se puede decir que es una composición a 4 voces, posiblemente una chansón francesa. La música y la letra están escritas en lo que parece ser un librete con cuatro partes vocales. Algunos fragmentos de los títulos de las voces se pueden leer e indican que están escritos en francés.
El autor y la obra no se han identificado (Proyecto Iconografía Musical UCM).

Update date: 09-04-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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