Jean Pelletier After Gerard Metsu

The Sleeping Sportsman

Jean Pelletier After Gerard Metsu

The Sleeping Sportsman

This 18th-century engraving by French printmaker Jean Pelletier (1736-1780) is after a painting by Dutch artist Gerard Metsu (1629-1667), which is currently in the Wallace Collection.

Slumped against a wall with pipe in hand, he’s drunk. In fact, everyone’s a little drunk, but he’s the drunkest. Having returned from a shoot with two impressive game birds, only one of these two gentlemen is able to hold the goods. He’s standing proud while the other is away with the fairies.

Given that 17th-century Dutch scenes are usually brimming with symbolism, can you imagine what it all means? Perhaps stop reading for a while and consider the licentious implications of this little tale…

Ready? Well, the underlying metaphor of ‘the hunt’ relates to the pursuit of women - and various Dutch texts refer to ‘vogelen’ (to bird) as a euphemism for intercourse. So given that, what do you make of it now? He’s unable to ‘bird’, so his friendly comrade is happy to step in. And over on the right, there’s his wife holding an empty cup.

Perhaps the dog’s knowing expression says it best of all.

It’s also interesting to note that the main character, the drunk, is understood to be a self portrait.

Signed in plate and held within a contemporary glazed frame.

Medium: Engraving on hand-laid paper
Overall size: 18½” x 22” / 47cm x 56cm
Year of creation: c. 1770
Labels & Inscriptions: Lettered in lower margin with title and production details: "Gab. Metzu Pinxit" and "Pelletier Sculp." and "Gravé d'après le Tableau Original de Gabriel Metzu".
Condition: Artwork presents well.

Jean Pelletier

Jean Pelletier's works are held in numerous public collections including at the British Museum, Met Museum, and National Gallery of Art.

Learn more about Jean Pelletier in our directory.

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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