by Maggie Dunn
Dutch painter Jan Weenix's Still Life with Hunting Trophies is captivating due to the gory and troublesome scene it captures. While modern viewers might balk at the blood and sinew in the foreground of this piece, such as the strewn corpses at the forefront of the painting, Dutch viewers in the late seventeenth century would have seen Still Life with Hunting Trophies in a different context. In this Dutch Golden Age, characterized by prosperity, Weenix’s paintings were displayed in wealthy townhomes to display surplus and consumption (Frick Collection).
After the Dutch War of Independence that began in the sixteenth century, the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands achieved independence. The Southern Netherlands, which were still under Catholic control, saw an influx of artisans fleeing to the north. Their independence created an emphasis of wealth, art, and colonialism for the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands (Frick Collection). This can be seen in violent paintings like Weenix’s, which asserted dominance over creatures perceived to be useful to the owner. In Still Life with Hunting Trophies, a hunting dog and monkey stand to either side of the corpses of a doe and a heron. The difference between the living and the dead animals lies in their service to hunters. Overconsumption is evident through ornate, abandoned falcon hoods at the forefront of the painting, as well as a hunting rifle embellished with a long red tassel. Ornaments of wealth on display next to subordinate animals show overconsumption and dominance on the part of hunters. Ideals of power and superiority as shown in this painting are examples of the colonialist mindset which was common as the Dutch expanded their empire in the seventeenth century (Frick Collection).
Weenix's Still Life with Hunting Trophies now hangs in the Ackland Art Museum, a reminder of the violence of overconsumption for modern viewers. Juxtaposing adornments of wealthy hunters with the gore of animal death creates a commentary on wealth and power that has remained relevant throughout history.
The Dutch Golden Age | The Frick Collection. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2023, from https://www.frick.org/exhibitions/mauritshuis/golden.