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Still Life with a Sparrow Hawk, Fowl, Porcelain and Shells
Peeters, Clara
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Peeters, Clara

Antwerp (?), 1588 - Antwerp (?), 1621

Peeters, Clara See author's file

Still Life with a Sparrow Hawk, Fowl, Porcelain and Shells

1611. Oil on panel.
Room 082

This painting, together with Still life with Fish, Candle, Artichokes, Crabs and Shrimp, also in the Prado (P1621), is very likely identical to a picture first documented when it was in the Spanish royal collection in Madrid in 1666. The infrared image of the painting reveals some underdrawing in the shells, along the contour of the plate (near the signature), in the beaks of some of the birds and in some areas of the rooster’s tail in the background. More underdrawing must exist, but it is not detectable. In the light areas of the infrared photo the streaky imprimatura applied in preparation for painting is visible. As is the case in most paintings by Clara Peeters, the fairly thin paint layers allow this streaky priming to show through in some areas, providing a sense of texture and a luminous, radiant effect. There are some pentimenti along the contours of the left wing of the mallard, which was originally larger. The head of the bird that emerges from under the aforementioned wing was added after the basket had been painted. This type of adjustment is characteristic of the paintings of Clara Peeters. A mallard very similar to this, but reversed, is included in another still life by the artist.

Perched on the rim of a wicker basket is a Eurasian sparrow hawk painted approximately life-size. It is a female, which are larger than males. The larger birds in the painting are a male mallard (in the basket), a woodcock, a hen (to the left, its head hanging from the table or ledge), and a rooster, with its tail barely visible in the background. The green colour of the tail has aged and become a dark tone, a transformation typical of green glaze copper pigments. In its original state it must have added a strong accent that rhymed with the head of the mallard and contrasted with its red feet. We can gain a sense of the effect of the tail on the original composition in the infrared image of the picture. Two young pigeons are displayed on a red clay plate. They have been plucked in preparation for cooking; the same would presumably soon happen to the rest of the birds. Next to the pigeons is a thrush, and hanging over the rim of the basket is the head of another bird of the same species. The small red bird to the right is a male common bullfinch. Peeters painted this bird on other occasions; she may have chosen it for its striking red colour, which is beautifully combined with the green head of the mallard. The small birds that hang by their neck from a small branch are finches, with their winter plumage, which is less colourful than during their mating season in the summer. The smaller birds in this picture could be the sparrow hawk’s prey; the mallard and hen are too large. They could be used to feed it, or they could be in the painting simply as food for people, not birds. The soft bodies and feathers of the birds are contrasted in the right section of the painting with the hard, fine surface of porcelain and shells.

Several plates and bowls of white kraak porcelain are stacked on top of a blue and white kraak plate that Peeters repeated in several paintings. The blue colour of this dish has faded due to the cobalt-based pigment used (following the actual appearance of kraak porcelain, it would have originally been much brighter). Kraak porcelain was a Chinese export that arrived in Europe from the late sixteenth century via Portugal and Spain, and spread throughout the continent mainly through Habsburg networks. The archdukes Isabel Clara Eugenia and Albert of Austria, who governed the Southern Netherlands, had an important collection in their palace in Brussels, in a room referred to as ‘caemer vande porceleynen’; it inspired Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568– 1625) to include porcelain in his idealised representations of the collections of the Archdukes (P1397 y P1404). From the early seventeenth century the Dutch traded heavily in porcelain, increasing the appeal of these objects. Next to the porcelain are four shells: a reddish Harpa harpa from the Indopacific region; next to it a Harpa doris from the West African coast, from Cape Verde to Angola; and below them a Hexaplex rosarium from the same region, and a black and white Caribbean Cittarium pica. Shell collecting was popular with elite sectors of society from the sixteenth century as a result of the fascination for exotic goods that followed the exploration of the world by Europeans. In the seventeenth century shells appear frequently in still life paintings and in paintings showing collections. Peeters painted shells in several of her still lifes. In formal terms, the web of connections based on similarities and dissimilarities of forms, colours and textures that exists between the shells, the porcelain vessels and the birds next to them is characteristic of the art of Clara Peeters.

The contents of this work would have appealed to a collector of exotic shells and porcelain, and to a lover of the hunt. The sparrow hawk was a bird used for falconry. This had been a sport of royalty and the aristocracy for centuries, and remained a sport enjoyed primarily by the elite during the early seventeenth century in much of Europe. Isabel Carla Eugenia wrote in 1599, when travelling near Colmar and Basel, about hunting hares and partridges with a goshawk and sparrow hawk. In 1613, the Archdukes passed legislation enforcing the exclusive right of the nobility to hunt ‘de poil avec poil et de plume avec plume’ (fur with fur and feather with feather). This picture offers an image related to the elite form of hunting ‘de plume avec plume’. A sparrow hawk such as we see here would have been used for a type of hunt that was a lighter form of entertainment than a proper hawking party – which would have included travelling larger distances, using horses and a large staff of huntsmen. Sparrow hawks would typically be used in the gardens surrounding a palace or a city, and not only by men but also by women and children learning the art of falconry. We can see an image of a hunting outing with a sparrow hawk in the painting Hunting Party with the Archdukes (P1434) by Jan Brueghel the Elder. In the first two decades of the seventeenth century the Spanish king often sent his falconers to the Spanish Netherlands to acquire new birds. They may have come from the town of Valkenswaard, which was known at the time for exporting falcons caught during their annual migration. Clara Peeters could have sketched this bird resting on the hand of a falconer, or she may have used a bird prepared by a taxidermist – the fact that it is not wearing jesses may indicate that indeed this is not a live animal. If so, it was very well done, or very well translated into paint by the artist; the glimmer in the bird’s eye makes it seem lifelike.

This is one of the first still life paintings devoted to the hunt. Its quality matches the ambition of the subject matter; it is one of Peeters’s finest works. The exquisite rendering of textures and the harmony of colours are highlighted by the elegant brownish tones of the ledge and background. Because of its subject matter, this painting must have been made with the intention of selling it to high-end clientele. Hunting still lifes were made for princely and aristocratic patrons and collectors. De Lairesse wrote in the late seventeenth century of paintings of ‘boars, deer, hares, as well as pheasants, partridges and other dead birds, which generally Princes and Aristocrats like to hang’.

(Text extractado de Vergara, Alejandro (ed.), El Arte de Clara Peeters, Madrid y Amberes, Museo Nacional del Prado, Koniklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, 2016, pp. 92-95)


Technical data

Inventory number
Peeters, Clara
Still Life with a Sparrow Hawk, Fowl, Porcelain and Shells
Height: 52 cm; Width: 71 cm
Royal Collection ([¿]Real Alcázar, Madrid, Pieza larga segunda pieza de las bobedas a donde su magestad comia de verano, 1666, s.n.[?]; [¿]Real Alcázar, Pieza larga de las bobedas, 1686, s.n.[?]; [¿]Real Alcázar, Pieza larga de las bobedas, 1701-1703, nº374[?]; Real Alcázar, Pinturas que se hallaron en las bobedas de palacio, 1734, nº269; Palacio del Buen Retiro, Madrid, Pinturas enttregadas en dhas. Casas Arzobispales a Dn Santiago de Bonabia, 1747, nº269; Palacio Nuevo, Madrid, Retrete del Rey, 1772, nº269; Palacio Nuevo, Pieza de paso a la de vestir, 1794, nº269; Palacio Nuevo, Dormitorio de Principes Pieza Novena, 1814-1818 s.n.; Museo Real de Pinturas a la muerte de Fernando VII, Madrid, Salón 2º Escuela Flamenca, 1834, nº231)

Bibliography +

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier y Beroqui, Pedro, Inventarios Reales en 12 Volumenes y Un Indice (Fotocopias) (procedencia/provenance), Madrid, 1923.

Harris, Ann Sutherland y Nochlin, Linda, Women Artist : 1550-1950, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1976, pp. 33.

Decoteau, Pamela Hibbs, Clara Peeters: 1594-ca. 1640 and the development of still-life painting in northern Europe, Luca Verlang, Lingen, 1992, pp. ill. 3, p. 16.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, El siglo de Rubens en el Museo del Prado : catálogo razonado, Prensa Iberica, Barcelona, 1995, pp. 798-799.

Anes, Gonzalo, Las colecciones reales y la fundación del Museo del Prado, Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1996, pp. 179.

Seipel, Wilfried, Das Flamische Stillleben 1550-1680, Luca Verlag Lingen Kunsthistoriches, Wien, 2002, pp. cat. 65, pp. 202-03.

Aterido Fernández, A.; Martínez Cuesta, J.; Pérez Preciado, J. J., Colecciones de pinturas de Felipe V e Isabel Farnesio: inventarios reales, Fundación de Apoyo de la Historia del Arte Hispánico, Madrid, 2004.

V.V.A.A., Von Schönheit und Tod : Tierstillleben von der Renaissance bis zur Moderne, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Berlín, 2011, pp. cat. 12, pp. 170-71.

Lenders, A, 'Clara Peeters pone la mesa. Objetos y alimentos ante la mirada de un espectador del siglo XVIII' En:, El arte de Clara Peeters, Museo Nacional del Prado, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten., Madrid, Amberes, 2016, pp. 48-65 [53].

Vergara, Alejandro, El arte de Clara Peeters, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten; Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2016, pp. 92-95 n.7.

Vergara, A, 'Reflejos de arte y cultura en los cuadrod de Clara Peeters' En:, El arte de Clara Peeters, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten , Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2016, pp. 12-47 [17,19,35,38,39,44].

Buvelot, Q.B, 'Clara Peeters.Hunting still life with fowl' En:, Slow Food: Dutch and Flemish Meal Still Lifes, 1600-1640, Mauritshus ; Waanders,, 2017, pp. 162-165 n.17.

Jover de Celis, Maite, Las marcas de fabricación como herramienta de datación en los soportes de madera de la pintura flamenca del siglo XVII en el Museo del Prado, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXXVII n 55-57, 2019-2021, pp. 96-109 [nt 27 ].

Other inventories +

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, Alcázar de Madrid, 1701-1703. Núm. [¿]nº374[?].
[¿]Pieza larga de las bobedas [...] nº 374 / Item otros dos vno de pesca y otro de aves de tres quartas de largo y dos de alto con marcos negros tasados a quince doblones[?]

Inv. Felipe IV, Alcázar de Madrid, 1666. Núm. [¿]s.n.[?].
[¿]Pieza larga y en la segunda pieza de las bobedas a donde su magestad comia de verano [...] Otros dos uno de pesca y otro de aves de tres quartas de largo y dos terzias de alto a Doscientos Rs de plata cada uno[?]

Inv. Felipe IV, Alcázar de Madrid, 1686. Núm. [¿]s.n.[?].
[¿]Pieza larga de las bobedas [...] Otros dos, vno de Pesca, y otro de Aves de tres quartas de largo y dos terçias de alto.[?]

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1190.
Clara Peters. Autor desnocido del siglo 17. / 1190. Aves muertas. / En un cesto se ve un pato. (tabla). / Alto 1 pie, 9 pulg, 8 lin; ancho 2 pies, 6 pulg, 6 lin. / El siguiente cuadro lleva la fecha de 1611, con la firma del mismo autor

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 1190.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 1526.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 1619.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 1619.

Museo Real de Pinturas a la muerte de Fernando VII, 1834. Núm. 231.
Salón 2º Escuela Flamenca[...] Dos cientos treinta y uno. Bodegón con una Canastilla, Aves muertas y cuatro platillos sobre una Mesa de Juan Miel Tª 5.160

Inv. Felipe V, Buen Retiro, 1747. Núm. 269.
Pinturas entregadas a don Santiago de Bonavia para colocarlas en el Buen Retiro [...] 269 / Vna tabla de tres quartas de largo y dos tterzias de altto de Cazas y Pescados original de Clara Papis en settezientos y vte rs.

Inv. Alcázar, Madrid, 1734. Núm. 269.
Pinturas que se hallaron en las bobedas de Palacio [...] 269 / Vna tabla de tres quartas de largo y dos tercias de alto con marco negro de cazas y pescados original de Clara Papis

Inv. Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1772. Núm. 269.
Retrete del rey [...] 171-269 / Dos tablas iguales de diferentes pájaros y peces de vara de largo y dos tercias de caída su autora Clara Papis.

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1794. Núm. 269.
Pieza de paso a la de vestir [...] 171-269 / Dos de vara escasa de largo y dos tercias de alto el vno con pescados y el otro pajaros sobre una mesa = a quinientos rs.

Inv. Fernando VII, Palacio Nuevo, 1814-1818. Núm. s. n..
Dormitorio de Principes [...] Pieza Novena [...] {21777} Vara de largo dos tercias de alto caza con un mochuelo = trastos de cocina y pesca = Clara P.

Inscriptions +

CLARA P. Ao. 1611
Signed and dated. Front, lower central area

Pº. Nº 269. Bodegon
Inscribed in golden colour. Back, Upper central area

Inscribed. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed with chalk. Back, Upper left area

Peine K.A [?]
Inscribed with chalk. Back, Upper central area

Exhibitions +

06.06.2020 - 25.07.2021

Slow Food: Still Lifes of the Golden Age
La Haya
09.03.2017 - 25.06.2017

The Art of Clara Peeters
25.10.2016 - 19.02.2017

Clara Peeters
16.06.2016 - 02.10.2016

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

Das Flamische Stilleben - El bodegón flamenco
01.09.2002 - 08.12.2002

Das Flamische Stilleben - El bodegón flamenco
18.03.2002 - 21.07.2002

Location +

Room 082 (On Display)


Displayed objects +

Porcelain: La porcelana "kraak", era una exportación china que llegó a Europa a finales del siglo XVI a través de Portugal y España, y se extendió a lo largo de todo el continente, principalmente mediante las redes de contactos de los Habsburgo


Update date: 13-07-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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