Roelant Savery was born in Kortrijk in 1576. At an early age he left for Amsterdam at an early age, where he worked as an apprentice for his brother, Jacob Savery (1563 – before 1603). After the latter’s death he moved to Prague in 1604, where he was appointed court painter to Rudolf II, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Rudolf was a great lover of the arts, who employed many of the most important painters of the period, such as mannerists Bartholomeus Spranger and Hans von Aachen, as well as Joris and Jacob Hoefnagel, Adriaan de Vries, Giuseppe Arcimboldo and many others. His art gallery was one of the most important in all of Europe. In 1606 Rudolf sent Savery to Tirol to draw the countryside. The sketches of mountains, birds, trees and waterfalls he made during his time there would serve as reference material for later works, such as the present painting. The Emperor’s zoo contained many exotic animals, which Savery took the time to carefully study.
After Rudolf’s death in 1612, Savery continued working for his successor, Emperor Matthias, until 1618, when he returned, to Utrecht. There he quickly became one of the most important painters, befriending many local painters such as Balthasar van der Ast and Ambrosius Bosschaert. Despite his success, he died in absolute poverty, perhaps due to alcoholism, in 1639.
The present painting is an excellent example of the work Savery produced in Utrecht in the 1620’s: carefully executed landscape compositions with various animals, including several that would not have been very common in such a setting, such as the eagle and the colorful parrot. The composition is nicely balanced, with the dark rock formation, crowded with deer and a mountain goat, to the left contrasting with the open landscape with the waterfall, which draws the eye to the right and into the background, where the approaching hunters can be made out. This work can be compared to a painting currently in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne and another work sold at Sotheby’s, New York, 30th of January 2014.