More than eleven feet in width, Snyders’s still life must have greatly impressed his contemporaries when he became the first to paint market scenes on such a monumental scale. During the previous half-century, Pieter Aertsen had established this subject in Antwerp—on a more modest scale—with such paintings as the Museum’s A Meat Stall with the Holy Family Giving Alms.
As the foremost Flemish still-life artist of his time, Snyders specialized in market scenes and compositions that included game animals. In fact, he often collaborated with Peter Paul Rubens and other artists, executing still-life elements for some of their commissions. The demand for Snyders’s work was so great that he employed assistants to paint portions of his compositions. The quality of the fur and feathers in this painting indicates that the master himself painted the deer, cat, swan, partridges, and curlew. Snyders observed his game birds with such remarkable specificity that each species can be identified.
Snyders’s native Antwerp was the leading commercial and artistic center of Flanders during his lifetime. Such produce as the artichokes and melon were not native to Flanders and demonstrated the international mercantile connections that brought prosperity to the city. The display of the luxurious abundance of Antwerp’s commercial port may indicate propagandist overtones related to the Spanish administration of Flanders as it continued its war with the Dutch Republic.