Antwerp, baptised 22 October 16221–Paris, 3 September 1674
Flemish painter primarily of animals, hunts, and still lifes with hunting subjects, draughtsman, and etcher
Peeter Boel  first trained with his father, Jan Boel (1592–1640), who was an engraver, publisher and art dealer, and then probably with the Antwerp painter Joannes Fijt (1611–61). He may also have studied with Frans Snijders (1579–1657). He travelled to Italy, probably visiting Rome and Genoa, where he is said to have stayed with Cornelis de Wael (1592–1667), a painter, printmaker and art dealer and the uncle of his wife Maria Blanckaert.
By 1650 he was back in Antwerp, when he is documented as becoming a master in the Guild of St Luke. In Antwerp he painted some hunting scenes reminiscent of Snijders, but he chiefly produced open-air still lifes of hunting subjects, a theme pioneered by Fijt, his presumed master. He also worked with other artists including Erasmus Quellinus II (1607–78), Pieter Thijs (1616–77), Jacques Jordaens (1593–1678), Abraham van Diepenbeeck (1596–1675) and Gaspar de Crayer (1584–1669). Boel also produced designs for tapestry cartoons.
He is last documented in Antwerp in 1668, after which he moved to Paris, where he worked on designs for the Gobelins tapestry factory. In 1674 he was appointed Peintre Ordinaire to Louis XIV (1638–1715), and he made numerous studies of animals in the royal menagerie for the Gobelins works, especially for the series of the Mois, also called Maisons Royales.1 Many of these studies are preserved, and displayed, in the Louvre. The recent rediscovery of this aspect of Boel’s œuvre has led to a re-evaluation of his significance: he is seen today not as a minor follower of Fijt but as an important influence on 18th-century French animal painters such as François Desportes (1661–1743) and Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686–1755).
Jarry 1977; Greindl 1983, pp. 112–16, 147, 195 (figs. 41, 42), 329, 339–40; Sullivan 1984, pp. 21–2 (fig. 37); Sutton & Wieseman 1993, p. 572; Balis 1996a; Saur, xii, 1996, p. 165 (U. B. Wegener); Foucart-Walter 2001; Sørensen 2001; Van der Willigen & Meijer 2003, p. 40; Ecartico, no. 1093: http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/1093 (March 6, 2017; Pieter Boel); RKDartists&, no. 9645: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/9645 (March 6, 2017; Peeter Boel).
Conrad Lauwers after Erasmus Quellinus (I)
Portrait of Peeter Boel (1622-1674), c. 1662
paper, copper engraving, etching 192 x 131 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-1940-927
DPG357 – Dead Game
c. 1650–65; canvas, 82.2 x 60.6 cm
Cartwright Bequest, 1686 (no. 67, £3, ‘A hare hanging up on a huk and 2 birds on a Table in a gilt frame, on 3 quarters cloth’).
Sparkes & Carver 1890, p. 46, no. 123 (no name and no country mentioned); Richter & Sparkes 1892, p. 99, no. 358;2 Richter & Sparkes 1905, p. 99, no. 357; Cook 1914, p. 212, no. 357 (Artist Unknown; possibly Jan Fyt);3 Cook 1926, p. 212 (Artist Unknown); Cat. 1953, p. 47; Murray 1980a, p. 301 (Unknown (?Dutch)); Beresford 1998, p. 42 (Peeter Boel); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 34 (Peeter Boel; c. 1650–65); RKD, no. 282055: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/282055 (Dec. 4, 2019).
London 1987–8, pp. 23, 78–9, no. 75 (N. Kalinsky; Artist unknown).
Medium-weight tabby-weave linen. Lined onto similar canvas; the lining canvas is very fragile. The paint is worn in parts but structurally sound. The varnish is very discoloured. Previous recorded treatment: 1813–18, cleaned, Browne; 1987, surface cleaned, revarnished, minor retouchings carried out, AMSSEE.
1) Repetition: Dead Game, canvas, 85 x 60.3 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Sotheby’s, Amsterdam, 10 Nov. 1998, lot 122)  .4
The composition depicts a dead hare hanging by one foot, its head resting on a stone block on which lie the corpses of two songbirds. The painting’s dark tonality and sombre mood are in keeping with the subject matter.
Cook suggested that the picture might be by Joannes Fijt, but according to Fred Meijer it seems closer to Peeter Boel. Certainly the vigorous brushwork would seem to confirm such an attribution. Dating Boel’s works is usually problematic: this might have been painted c. 1650–65. A repetition of this painting was on the Amsterdam and London art market in 1998 (Related works, no. 1) . Other artists whose work is said to be stylistically related to DPG357 are the Scottish painter William Gowe Ferguson (1632/3–in or after 1695) and Jan Weenix (1641/2–1719).5
Dead game, c. 1650-1665
canvas, oil paint 82,2 x 60,6 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG357
attributed to Peeter Boel
Still life with dead hare and jay, probably 1650s
canvas, oil paint 85 x 60,3 cm
Sotheby's (Amsterdam) 1998-11-10, nr. 122
DPG594 – Head of a Hound
c. 1660–65; canvas, 27.8 x 35.2 cm
?;6 Edmond Maghlin Blood (1815–91) of Brickhill, Co. Clare, Ireland; left to his daughter, Gertrude Elizabeth Blood, later Lady Colin Campbell (1857–1911); bequest of Lady Colin Campbell in memory of her father, 1912.7
PGC Report 1912, p. 99 (attributed to ‘Velasquez’); Cook 1914, p. 306, no. 594 (‘Said to be after Velazquez’); PGC Report 1914–15, p. 60 (‘ascribed to Velasquez, but more probably by Jan Fyt […] It is an excellent picture, whoever painted it’); Cook 1926, p. 306, no. 594 (‘Said to be after Velazquez’); Cat. 1953, p. 19 (Flemish School); Murray 1980a p. 304 (Dutch School?); Beresford 1998, p. 42 (Pieter Boel); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 35 (Peeter Boel); RKD, no. 12294: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/12294 (May 24, 2017).
Leeds 1868, p. 32, no. 341 (lent by Edmond M. Blood Esq.; ‘Velasquez’); Whitechapel 1888, no. 88 (idem); London 1901, p. 95, no. 99 (lent by Lady Colin Campbell; ‘Velazquez’; painted about 1644); London 1907, p. 44, Upper Gallery, no. 4 (‘Velasquez’).8
Medium-coarse plain-weave linen canvas. Grey ground. Thick impasto paint passages. The painting has been lined. There is an old large tear around the nose of the dog and an old triangular infill towards the lower left-hand edge. Some minor fillings and retouchings have been carried out, but overall the original paint is in good condition. Previous recorded treatment: 1949–53, cleaned and restored, Dr Hell; 2001, relined, cleaned and restored, S. Plender.
1a) Peeter Boel, Boar Hunt, signed P. BOEL, canvas, 184 x 255 cm (14 cm added on the right). Schloss Mosigkau, MOS 7 .9
1b) Peeter Boel, Boar Hunt, canvas, 183.6 x 223.7 cm. Sotheby’s, 7 Dec. 1994, lot 249 .10
1c) Attributed to Peeter Boel, Wild Boar Hunt, one of the pictures depicted in Gonzales Coques and others, Interior with Figures before a Picture Collection, 1667–72 and 1706, canvas, 176 x 210.5 cm. MH, 238 .11
1d) David de Coninck (previously Peeter Boel), Deer Hunt, pencil and watercolour heightened with white, 293 x 442 mm. Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen, Weimar, KK 4797 .12
2a) Frans Snijders, Study of a Boar’s Head, signed F. Snijders, 1620–40, canvas, 71.6 x 86.6 cm. The Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 406098.13
2b) Frans Snijders, Study of Two Dogs, c. 1630, canvas, 45.5 x 60 cm. Collection of Alfred and Isabel Bader, Milwaukee.14
3a) Diego Velázquez, Philip IV hunting Wild Boar (La Tela Real), probably 1632–7, canvas, 182 x 302 cm. NG, London, NG197.15
3b) Workshop of Diego Velázquez, Philip IV and his Dog, canvas, 200 x 120 cm. Musée Goya, Castres, D 49-3-2; MG 219 (old no.) and M.I. 979.16
This is probably a study for the hound on the extreme left of Peeter Boel’s Boar Hunt in Schloss Mosigkau (Related works, no. 1a) , as was suggested by Fred Meijer in 1997.17 The two are approximately the same size.18 It is an example of the sketches made by Flemish artists that were subsequently used to build up the compositions of larger paintings. Boel’s skill as an animal painter is ably demonstrated here, with numerous small rapid strokes suggesting the texture of the dog’s fur, and different tones of white and grey providing contour and three-dimensionality. The same dog appears in another Boar Hunt by Boel (Related works, no. 1b) . However, without the signed picture in Schloss Mosigkau the attribution to Boel would not have been easy: his work is very close to that of his presumed teachers Fijt and Snijders, and most of Boel’s many drawings and oil sketches of animals for the Gobelins factory are looser and more elegant.19 An attribution to Snijders would have been reasonable on stylistic grounds: there are many similarities in the brushwork to the Study of a Boar’s Head sketch in the Royal Collection and to the Study of Two Dogs in the Bader Collection (Related works, nos. 2a, 2b).
The painting came into the collection as a painting by Diego Velázquez (1599–1660). Similar dogs were cited, rightly, in Philip IV hunting Wild Boar in the National Gallery (‘La Tela Real’) and in Philip IV and his Dog now in Castres (Related works, nos. 3a, 3b), but Velázquez did not make such sketches.20
Lady Campbell, an active collector, clearly viewed DPG594 as the best work in her possession: it is notable that it alone was not included in the posthumous sale of her collection.21
Head of a hound, 1645-1665
canvas, oil paint 27,8 x 35,2 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG594
Boar attacked by Hounds, 1645-1665
canvas, oil paint 184,0 x 225,0 cm
Schloss Mosigkau (Dessau, Saksen-Anhalt), Museum Schloss Mosigkau, inv./cat.nr. 23 - MOS 7
attributed to Peeter Boel
Pack of Hounds attacking a Boar
canvas, oil paint 183,6 x 223,7 cm
Sotheby's 1994-12-07, nr. 249
Gonzales Coques and Dirck van Delen
Interior with figures before a picture collection, 1667-1706
canvas, oil paint 176 x 210,5 cm
The Hague, Koninklijk Kabinet van Schilderijen Mauritshuis, inv./cat.nr. 238
David de Coninck
Dogs hunting a deer
paper, graphite, brush in color, corrections in white 293 x 442 mm
Weimar (Thüringen), Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen, inv./cat.nr. KK 4797 recto, als P. Boel
1 According to RKDartists&, no. 9645 (20/3/2020), he was baptised on 10 Oct. 1622.
2 Foucart-Walter 2001, pp. 32–5.
3 In the 1892 catalogue the numbers 357 and 358 were confused, a mistake corrected in subsequent catalogues.
4 ‘This is a picture of greater artistic merit than belongs to most of Cartwright’s [sic]. It is possibly by Jan Fyt (Flemish: 1611–1661).’
6 For instance by N. Kalinsky in Kalinsky & Waterfield 1987, pp. 78–9, no. 75.
7 GPID (6 March, 2017) gives no study of a dog/hound by Peeter/Pieter Boel, and under Velázquez (the name under which the picture was known in the 19th century) nothing is mentioned.
8 A letter from Lady Campbell’s executor, Mrs W. Brooke-Alder, dated 13 Nov. 1911 (DPG594 file), refers to the picture being bequeathed to the National Gallery in memory of her father, but subsequently the Gallery declined to accept it. Her executor then turned to the Dulwich Gallery, of which Lady Campbell was ‘a great admirer’: she had published an article about the Gallery in the weekly The World, 2 Sept. 1891, and the text was reprinted in a collection of her articles, Campbell 1903 (ch. XII, ‘A Suburban Gallery’).
9 The Times, 11 Oct. 1907, p. 13.
12 RKD, no. 25708: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/25708 (March 10, 2017); https://www.mauritshuis.nl/en/explore/the-collection/artworks/interior-with-figures-in-a-picture-gallery-238/ (Jan. 22, 2021); Van Suchtelen 2009, pp. 111–12, 117; Van Suchtelen & Van Beneden 2009, pp. 120 (no. 3), 136–7; Buvelot 2004, pp. 96–7, no. 238 (no. 16).
13 This is an example of the motifs of Boel taken over by one of his pupils, David de Coninck, RKD, no. 61944: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/61944 (April 18, 2017); Barth 1981, p. 83, no. 80 (fig. p. 63). This drawing has also been attributed to Snijders and to Paul de Vos.
14 https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/search#/1/collection/406098/a-boars-head (March 6, 2017); White 2007, pp. 288–9, no. 82.
15 De Witt 2008, pp. 287–8, no. 176.
17 After the original in the Prado, Madrid, 1184. See Joconde (25 Jan. 2012) and Eloy 2007, pp. 155–6, fig. 119; it was acquired in 1862 from Otto Mündler, who had been a travelling agent for the National Gallery, London (1855–8), and was formerly in the Louvre.
18 Letter from Fred Meijer (RKD) to Richard Beresford, 12 Sept. 1997 (DPG594 file).
19 Dauer 1988, p. 20, no. 15, fig. 13.
20 Foucart-Walter 2001; Sørensen 2001.
21 Xavier Bray in conversation, May 2011.
22 Albert Amor sale (presumably acting for Lady Campbell’s estate), Christie’s, 5 and 9 Feb. 1912. The consignment consisted of 47 pictures and drawings, 16 prints (none sold), furniture, china, a clock, bronzes, jade, and lacquer. We are indebted to Anne Jordan for sharing her unpublished research for her biography of Lady Campbell (Jordan 2010); she had no more information on DPG594.