Paul de VOS
Hulst, 9 December 1595–Antwerp, 30 June 1678
Flemish painter and draughtsman
Paul de Vos  was born in Hulst, now in the Dutch part of Flanders; the family moved to nearby Antwerp in 1596. After a short spell with Denis van Hove (fl. 1604)1 he trained with his brother Cornelis de Vos (1584–1651) in the workshop of David Remeeus (1559–1626) in Antwerp. In 1611 their sister Margaretha married the painter Frans Snijders (1579–1657). Paul de Vos specialized in still lifes, animal and hunting scenes, generally on a large scale. In 1620 he became a master at the Antwerp painters’ guild.
Paul de Vos was extremely productive throughout his life, but it is difficult to establish a chronology because he seldom dated his pictures. His early work is related to that of Snijders, with whom he shared an interest in the depiction of fables,2 but he gradually developed his own style, with chaotic movement and gruesome detail. He collaborated with other painters, most notably Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), as well as Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641), Daniel Seghers (1590–1661) and Erasmus Quellinus II (1607–78). The backgrounds of his pictures were often painted by Jan Wildens (1584/6–1653). At his death he possessed a large collection of paintings.
Manneback 1965; Müllenmeister 1981, iii, pp. 91–3; Greindl 1983, pp. 94–5, 320–21, 387; Robels 1989, under pp. 425–96; Balis 1996b; Van der Willigen & Meijer 2003, p. 210; Ecartico, no. 8017: http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/8017 (Dec. 6, 2019); RKDartists&, no. 81925: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/81925 (Dec. 6, 2019).
Anthony van Dyck and Joannes Meyssens and Schelte Adamsz. Bolswert
Portrait of Paul de Vos (1595-1678), c. 1630-1641
paper, etching, engraving, 8th state 237 x 152 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-BI-7426
After Paul de Vos
DPG597 – Fox and Poultry
17th century?; canvas, 115.5 x 169.9 cm
Bequest of Henry Louis Florence, 9 Prince’s Gate, London, 1915.3
Cook 1926, p. 285, no. 597; Cat. 1953, p. 63; Murray 1980a, p. 304 (Flemish School (?)); Beresford 1998, p. 253 (After P. De Vos?); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 283; RKD, no. 289021: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/289021 (April 4, 2018).
Plain-weave linen canvas. Glue-paste lined. The paint is in fairly good condition, but appears to have been flattened during the lining process. There is a large filled but unretouched tear in the lower left quarter. The surface bears a network of fine craquelure, which is disruptive in areas of the sky and background. The head of the right-hand hen has been cleaned, but elsewhere the thin, but discoloured, varnish remains. The surface is very dull. Previous recorded treatment: 1952–5, partially cleaned, Dr Hell; 1990s, cleaned and restored, N. Ryder.
1) Replica, Follower of Paul de Vos, 101.5 x 127.5 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Christie’s, Amsterdam, 29 May 1986, lot 106) .4
2) Paul de Vos, The Fox and the Herons, canvas, 130 x 50 cm, signed ‘P. De Vos fecit’. Present whereabouts unknown (Sotheby’s-Peel, Madrid, 18 May 1993, lot 9; private collection, Madrid) .5
3) Paul de Vos, Fight between a Cock and a Peacock, canvas, 119 x 179 cm, signed ‘P. De Vos fecit’. Present whereabouts unknown (Tajan, Paris, 19 Dec. 2001, lot 45; Xaver Scheidwinner, Munich) .6
4) Paul de Vos, Fox and Poultry, dimensions unknown. Private collection, Italy 7
It seems likely that this is a copy of a lost painting by De Vos, as the figure of the fox recurs in a signed painting illustrating Aesop’s fable of the fox and the stork8 in a Madrid private collection, shown in 1965 (Related works, no. 2) . A copy of the complete composition was on the Amsterdam art market in 1986 (Related works, no. 1) , while a cropped version is in a private collection in Italy (Related works, no. 4) .
Pictures such as DPG597 were extremely popular in 17th-century Flanders.9 It may have been intended merely as a decorative scene, but it is worth noting that in Karel van Mander’s Van de Wtbeeldinghen der Figueren, an appendix to his Schilder-Boeck (1604), he wrote that ‘The fox signifies maliciousness or a malicious man. A fox’s pelt sewn together with a lion’s skin signifies deception and power’.10 A painter such as Paul de Vos would have been familiar with the reference; he knew Aesop’s fable of the fox and the stork and would no doubt also have been familiar with the medieval Romance of Reynard the Fox, which was used in Antwerp schools in the 17th century.11
after Paul de Vos
Fox and Poultry, c. 1610-1678
canvas, oil paint 115,5 x 169,9 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG597
follower of Paul de Vos
Fox taking chickens in a farmyard
canvas, oil paint 101,5 x 127,5 cm
Christie's Amsterdam (Amsterdam) 1986-05-29, nr. 106
Paul de Vos
Fox and Herons
canvas, oil paint 130 x 50 cm
Sotheby's (Madrid (Spain)) 1993-05-18, nr. 9
Paul de Vos
Garden with Fowl; a peacock is attacked by a rooster
canvas, oil paint 119 x 179 cm
lower right : P. De Vos fecit
Tajan (Paris) 2001-12-19, nr. 45
after Paul de Vos
Fox and poultry, ca. 1610-1700
canvas, oil paint 58 x 41 cm
1 Denis van Hove is not included in the RKDartist& database (Oct. 10, 2020).
2 Snijders bequeathed two copies of Aesop’s Fables, illustrated by Marcus Gheeraerts, to Paul de Vos: Koslow 1995a, p. 259; see also Balis 1985.
3 Minutes PGC, 13 May 1916, p. : ‘an interesting Dutch picture […] ascribed to Snyders’.
5 RKD, no. 289047: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/289047 (April 13, 2018). See Manneback 1965, pp. 283–4, no. 300 (fig.), who wrongly calls the birds storks instead of herons (see note 8 below). There are similar motifs in another horizontal picture after Paul de Vos, canvas, 116 x 153 cm, present whereabouts unknown, RKD, no. 184733: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/184733 (March 30, 2018): the same fox and heron on the right, a different heron on the left. These probably go back to inventions of Frans Snijders: see Koslow 1995, p. 261, fig. 355 (Snijders and studio, The Fox and the Two Herons, canvas, 115.8 x 152.4 cm, c. 1630–40, Rochester N.Y., Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, no. 72.75); see Robels 1989, pp. 321–2, no. 217; and Koslow 1995, p. 266, fig. 360 (Snijders, The Fox and the Herons, canvas, 121 x 238 cm, c. 1630–40, Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, no. 1486); see Robels 1989, pp. 320–21, no. 216. Jan van Kessel also depicted this scene (using grey herons): The Fable of the Fox and the Stork (see note 8 below), copper, 19 x 25 cm, signed: ‘J. v. Kessel fé’ (at Johnny Van Haeften in 2009, Bullocke 2009).
8 While Aesop’s fable is about a stork, we often find herons depicted in 17th-century pictures.
9 See Koslow 1995.
10 Cited by Koslow 1996, p. 689. Van Mander 1604b, fol. 130r.
11 Koslow 1996, p. 688.