In this tour de force
, Jan Fyt has turned a game piece into an outdoor drama. A hunter has set his game bag on the ground and left the recently shot hare and birds, assuming they would not be disturbed. However a cat approaches from the right, creeping over the fallen log, his eyes on the small birds piled below him. Fyt presents the scene to us as an extraordinary array of tone and texture. The background is conceived in dark earth tones, while the hunter’s spoils are in somewhat lighter shades, with dramatic highlights in white and red. For the animals’ soft fur and feathers, he uses a dark undertone over which he works in short, almost frantic strokes of tan, black, grey and white; these he layers one upon the other to create a sense of depth. He blocks the view to the left with tall grass painted in longer, almost transparent strokes, cutting off the view to the left and focuses the light on the belly of the hare, the central figure in the composition.
The painting, dated 1644, is a relatively early work by the artist, and may reflect the influence of a trip to the northern Netherlands two years before. As compared Frans Snyders, in whose studio he worked, Fyt has a simpler, more intimate approach. He was an enormously popular artist, with an audiences throughout the Low Countries and beyond.