Aert Schouman was born in Dordrecht in 1710. At age fifteen he became the apprentice of the – otherwise quite unknown – Dordrecht painter Adriaan van der Burg. From 1742 until his death in 1792 he was the head master of the Dordrecht artist guild Teekengenootschap Pictura; from 1752 until 1762 he was also head master of the guild of The Hague. His took on his first student in 1733 and continued teaching until his death; among others, he taught the still life painter Jan van Os. Schouman worked primarily in The Hague, although he also spent some time in Middelburg and visited Great Britain in 1765.
Schouman was a prolific artist, who not only painted portraits, townscapes, biblical scenes and mythological themes but also wallpaper decorations. He was also active as an engraver and, occasionally, as an art dealer. Over his lifetime Schouman amassed a great collection of paintings. Today however, he is best known for his watercolors of plants and animals – especially (exotic) birds, mostly set in park-like landscapes.
The present work is a beautiful example of Schouman’s animal studies: the dwarf rooster, or gallus nana, is portrayed at half size, as the artist himself inscribed on the verso of the sheet. Proudly, almost defiantly, the animal stares at the viewer, every detail of its anatomy delicately rendered by Schouman’s pencil. Would it be exaggerating to state that this work, a true portrait of the animal, captures not only its look but also its character?