The painter of the royal hunts made this pair of still lifes in 1731, when he was master of the genre and already the reference in France.
Alexandre-François Desportes (1661-1743), Perdreau, bécasses, panier de pêches et prunes et abricots sur un entablement (Partridge, Woodcock, Basket of Peaches and Plums and Apricots on an Entablature) and Faisan, perdreau, abricots dans une jatte imari et figues sur un entablement (Pheasant, Partridge and Apricots in an Imari Bowl and Figs on an Entablature), 1731, pair of signed and dated paintings, 79.8 x 61.8 cm/31.42 x 24.33 in.
There is no excess or Baroque virtuosity in these paintings, where Desportes (1661-1743) sensitively mastered the rendering of fruit and animals. Placed on a stone entablature, each item emerges from the shadows to reveal its texture and colors. The present owner’s parents bought them from Maurice Segoura at the 1994 Antique Dealers Biennale. They are variations of a pair (in slightly larger dimensions: 100 x 79 cm/ 39.37 x 31.10 in each) that Desportes had painted four years earlier, in 1727, and sold at that time by Victor-Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy and King of Sardinia, for his palace in Turin, the city where they are now in the Galleria Sabauda. At the time, Desportes was the greatest name in the genre. His reputation was made in 1699 when he was admitted as an “animal painter” to the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture (Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture). He worked for all the sovereigns from Louis XIV to the regent and Louis XV. Desportes developed the classic style of animal painting, masterfully combining Flemish influence, which he had learned in Paris from his teacher, Nicasius Bernaerts, himself a student of Frans Snyders, and his love of nature, inherited from his childhood in the Ardennes. Armed with his sketchbook, the artist accompanied the king when he went hunting. He possessed outstanding draftsmanship skills, a consummate mastery of composition and a naturalist touch, especially in the soft rendering of animal coats. In France, he was the first artist to depict hunting scenes without people and is still considered the founder of animal painting.