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Dead Cockerel
Metsu, Gabriël
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Metsu, Gabriël

Leiden, 1629 - Amsterdam, 1667

See author's file

Dead Cockerel

1659 - 1660. Oil on panel.
Room 076

Recent restoration has enabled a much better appreciation of this picture, since the thick layer of oxidised glaze that previously covered the surface made it impossible to judge the space and depth of the composition. As a result, the cockerel´s body is no longer outlined against the dark, plain background, but seen hanging from a string above a table inside some kind of architectural space -an arch can be glimpsed in the background- and enveloped in a vibrant range of yellows and browns.

The technical execution is perfect and reveals the artist´s talent as a draughtsman and the ease with which he is capable of representing texture. The colour is applied over a light red preparation, with flowing brush-strokes that evoke the soft smoothness of the cockerel´s plumage in a strikingly natural way. The light entering from a source on the left, outside the field of vision, illuminates the bird´s body, transforming it into a flash of white and red that lights up the surrounding half-light.

Formal execution and compositional simplicity have led Robinson (1974) to date the panel in the late 1650s.

Dead Cockerel is one of a small number of still lifes by Gabriël Metsu preserved today. The picture draws on the kind of still life representing game birds hanging from one leg that was cultivated by Jan Baptist Weenix (1621-1659/61), Elias Vonck (1605-1652) and Matthias Bloem (active 1643-1668). It may have acted as a source of inspiration for Willem van Aelst (1627-1683/4) in his Two Cockerels suspended by a String, signed and dated 1681].

In the catalogue for the exhibition organised at the Lakenhal Museum in 1966, Dead Cockerel is identified with a picture in the sale of the Sandra Middelburgh collection (3 August 1713, no. 111) referred to by Hofstede de Groot (1908-28, no. 249a). This is an identification which Robinson, Valdivieso (1973) and the Museo del Prado (1996 catalogue) have all endorsed. However, it would in fact seem unlikely that this is one and the same picture, given that the Middelburgh sale picture is called Dead Birds (Posada Kubissa, T.: Pintura holandesa en el Museo Nacional del Prado. Catálogo razonado, 2009, p. 305).


Technical data

Related artworks

Museo del Prado, vista de una de las salas
Albumen on photographic paper, 1915 - 1930
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Inventory number
Metsu, Gabriël
Dead Cockerel
1659 - 1660
Height: 57 cm; Width: 40 cm
Royal Collection (Palacio de Aranjuez, Madrid, cuarto del rey-cuadros sin colocación, 1818, nº 171).

Bibliography +

Inventario de las Pinturas del Museo Hecho a la Muerte del R, [s.n, Madrid, 1834, pp. 55.

Hofstede de Groot, C. (Cornelis) (1863-1930), A catalogue raisonné of the works of the most eminent dutch..., I, Macmillan and Co, Londres, 1908, pp. nº249a.

Barnard, A., Gabriel Metsu, Stedelijk Museum, Leiden, 1966, pp. nº49.

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

Valdivieso, Enrique, Pintura Holandesa del siglo XVII en españa, Universidad, Valladolid, 1973, pp. 26, 110-111 y 305-306.

Robinson, Franklin W., Gabriel Metsu. 1629-1667. A Study of His Place in Dutch Genr..., Abner Schram, Nueva York, 1974, pp. 50.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 420.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990.

Buendía, José Rogelio, El Prado. Colecciones de Pintura, Lunwerg Editores, Madrid, 1994, pp. 459.

Gemar-Koeltzsch, Erika., Holländische Stillebenmaler im 17. Jahrhundert, Luca, 1995, pp. vol I Lám 62. vol. p.658 n.238/1.

El bodegón, Galaxia GutenbergCírculo de Lectores, Madrid, 2000.

Posada Kubissa, Teresa, Pintura holandesa en el Museo Nacional del Prado. Catálogo razonado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2009, pp. 81-83.

Waiboer, Adriaan E., Gabriel Metsu, Yale University Press: In associ, 2010, pp. 73-95.

Von Schönheit und Tod : Tierstillleben von der Renaissance b..., Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, 2011, pp. n 41. 172-173.

Waiboer, A. E., Gabriel Metsu. Life and work. A catalogue raisonné, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2012, pp. 65, A-58.

Maurer, G., Goya: lo bello y lo recóndito. En: La belleza encerrada: de Fra Angelico a Fortuny, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2013, pp. 227.

Mena Marqués, M.; Albarrán, V., La belleza encerrada: de Fra Angelico a Fortuny, folleto, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2013, pp. 27 n.105.

Mena Marqués, M.; Albarrán, V., Azúa, F. de, La belleza cautiva. Pequeños tesoros del Museo del Prado, Museo del Prado - Obra Social ''La Caixa'', Barcelona, 2014, pp. 119.

Prado captive beauty: treasures from the Prado Museum, Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, 2015, pp. n.41.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1873-1907. Núm. 1441.
1441.-(1551-N.)-Una gallina muerta, toda blanca, / pendiente de un clavo. / Vino del Pal. de Aranjuez en 1828. / Alto 0,57; ancho 0,40.-L.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1551.
Metzu (Gabriel)ETZU / 1551. Una gallina muerta. / Alto 2 pies, 6 lin.; ancho 1 pie, 5 pulg.

Inv. Fernando VII, Aranjuez, 1814-1818. Núm. 171.
QUARTO DEL REY NUESTRO SEÑOR [...] Quadros sin colocacion [...] {21007} 171 / Tabla 3 quartas alto 2 ancho una gallina blanca colgada

Museo Real de Pinturas a la muerte de Fernando VII, 1834. Núm. f.415v.
Ciento sesenta y uno. Una gallina muerta / de Gabriel Metru / Tª / 2.320

Inscriptions +

G · Metsú
Signed. Front, center

Inscribed in white. Front, lower right corner

Inscribed in white. Front, lower left corner

P.e S.or [Príncipe Nuestro Señor]
Inscribed in pen and ink. Back

Tª. Nº. 171. / Una Gallina. / 2ª.
Handwritten label. Back, Upper central area

STEDELIJK MUSEUM DE LAKENHAL / LEIDEN / Tent: Gabriel Metsu / 1966 / Kunsten: " " / Titel: Le cocq mort / Tent. cat. nº.: 49 - 57 x 40 cm / Eigenaar: Museo del Prado, Madrid
Scrap of paper. Back, Upper left area

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Handwritten label. Back, Upper right area

Inscribed. Back, Upper central area

Exhibitions +

Captive Beauty. Treasures from The Prado Museum
10.10.2015 - 31.01.2016

Captive Beauty. Small Treasures at the Prado Museum
16.07.2014 - 05.01.2015

Captive Beauty. Fra Angelico to Fortuny
21.05.2013 - 10.11.2013

Death and Beauty. Animal Still-Life from the Renaissance to Modernism
19.11.2011 - 19.02.2012

Gabriel Metsu 1629-1667
Washington DC
10.04.2011 - 24.07.2011

Gabriel Metsu 1629-1667
16.12.2010 - 21.03.2011

Gabriel Metsu 1629-1667
04.09.2010 - 05.12.2010

Dutch Painters at the Prado
03.12.2009 - 11.04.2010

Location +

Room 076 (On Display)

Update date: 24-11-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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