A Sow and her Litter
Teniers has observed the behaviour of the sow and her five piglets closely; some appear to be squabbling, while another suckles from its mother. It is unusual for Teniers to focus so much on animals, for he favoured subjects that captured human traits. However, peaceful depictions of farm animals and humans coexisting were valued by his contemporaries as a mirror of 17th-century rural life in the Netherlands.
This painting was one of 50 works in the collection chosen to be reproduced in a series of coloured aquatints published between 1716 and 1720 by Ralph Cockburn, artist and first keeper of the Gallery. It was also one of the few that were reproduced on a much larger scale than the others, showing the appreciation that contemporaries had for this painting. Teniers greatly appealed to English collectors during the 18th century, when his work was praised by famous artists like Sir Joshua Reynolds. Furthermore, the painting was still prized in 1905 when it was described in the Gallery’s catalogue as ‘the most brilliant and glowing in colour’ of all of Teniers’ paintings in the collection.