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Still life with Game: partridge, duck and other birds
Nani, Mariano
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Nani, Mariano

Naples (Italy), 1725 - Madrid (Spain), 1806

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Still life with Game: partridge, duck and other birds

1786 - 1787. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

Nani depicts a partridge and a female duck tied to a tree, a thrush and two quails, one of them already plucked and skinned in preparation for cooking. While the birds’ different states refer to various stages in the hunt, the decorative nature of the composition prevails over their realistic appearance. This canvas was commissioned by the heir to the throne, the future Charles IV, for the Royal Palace in Madrid.

This painting and its companion (P000265) are documented in an invoice which Nani submitted for payment to the prince in December 1786. They belong to a long-standing type of game still life depicting trophies of the hunt. The pieces of game are here nonchalantly piled upon a river bank, in a landscape notable for its sparkling luminosity. The blood dripping from the hare, as can also be seen in the hunting piece of Goya, suggests a fresh kill. Some of the birds have already been plucked, doubtless for an outdoors meal “on the hoof”. Nani evidently knew his game and his invoice carefully itemized the subject matter. He called one of the paintings “the huntsman´s rest”, referring to the black hat of the hunter left on the ground, along with a plucked quail, a tied hare, two partridge with feathers and another plucked, and a landscape view. The other was said to depict a duck with a partridge tied to a tree, two quails, one of them plucked, with a landscape view. Nani referred to these types of still lifes as “historiadas”, since a narrative element was implied by the accoutrements of the hunt included in the composition and which only implied the presence of human figures he was otherwise ill equipped to paint. The Neapolitan artist Mariano Nani, son of the still-life painter Giacomo Nani (1698-1770), had come to Madrid with King Charles III (r.1759-88) to paint at the Buen Retiro porcelain factory. He also painted still lifes for the open market and, in 1764, was awarded the title of academician in the speciality of the still-life painting for a presentation piece, Still Life with Fruit, Sheep, Hare, Game Birds and Cat (Madrid, Real Academia de San Fernando) which was an official demonstration of his representational abilities in a wide range of subject matters, including live animals.

Nani attracted the attention of Charles Prince of Asturias, who had commissioned Meléndez´s extensive series of still lifes on the theme of the natural history of Spain, and became provider of still life for the Prince after the death of the latter. The key to Nani´s success here was his specialization in hunting subjects and his skill at painting dogs and live animals, which appealed greatly to a patron who avidly pursued field sports. It is likely that a number of his pictures commemorated actual pieces of game killed by his patron. Moreover, Nani emulated Flemish painters of the seventeenth century, increasingly admired in court circles for the verisimilitude with which they depicted animal´s skins. He seems to have been particularly taken by the painting of Jan Fyt, which he knew in the royal collection and other collections in Madrid. Nani evokes fur and feathers through densely layered, hatched brushwork and scoring with handle of the brush; stumping is used to give the puckered effect of the skin of plucked birds (Texto extractado de Cherry, Peter, In the presence of things: four centuries of European still-life painting, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2010, p. 232).

In the presence of things: four centuries of European still-life painting, Lisbon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2010, p.232-233

Technical data

Related artworks

Inventory number
Nani, Mariano
Still life with Game: partridge, duck and other birds
1786 - 1787
Height: 72 cm; Width: 48 cm
Royal Collection (Palacio Real, Madrid, primera pieza de libería por parte de la terraza, 1814-1818, nº 402).

Bibliography +

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

Urrea Fernández, Jesús, La pintura italiana del siglo XVIII en España, Secretariado de Publicaciones de la Universidad, Valladolid, 1977.

Pintura española de bodegones y floreros de 1600 a Goya /, Ministerio de Cultura, Dirección General de Bellas, Madrid, 1983, pp. 169.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 460.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., La nature morte espagnole du XVII sièecle a Goya, Office du Livre ; Vilo, Fribourg, 1987, pp. 179/lám. 186.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. 210.

The Majesty of Spain. Royal Collections From the Museo del P, Mississipi Commission For Internati, Jackson,Mississipi, 2001, pp. 78.

1802 España Entre Dos Siglos y la Devolucion de Menorca=1802, Sociedad Estatal de Conmemoracion C, Madrid, 2002, pp. 288.

In the presence of things: four centuries of European still-life painting, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, 2010, pp. 232-233.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 316.

Inv. Fernando VII, Palacio Nuevo, 1814-1818. Núm. 402.
Primera Pieza de Libreria por parte de la Terraza [...] {21369 - 21370} 402 / Vara de alto mas de media de ancho, caza muerta pendiente de un tronco = una liebre y algunos paxaros = Nani

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 747.
Nani (Jacobo) / 747. Aves muertas. / Unas perdices colgadas de un arbol, y otras por el suelo desplumadas. Alto 2 pies, 7 pulg; ancho 1 pie, 8 pulg, 6 lin.

Inscriptions +

Nani fct.
Signed. Front, lower left corner

402 [el 2, parcialemente perdido]
Inscribed in white. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

The Object Observed. Five Centuries of European Still-Life
11.02.2010 - 02.05.2010

1802. España entre dos siglos y la recuperación de Menorca
08.08.2002 - 15.10.2002

Tha majesty of spain. Royal collections from the Museo del Prado & patrimonio nacional (La majestad de España)
Jackson MS
01.03.2001 - 03.09.2001

Update date: 09-04-2022 | Registry created on 02-12-2015

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