(Danzig [now Gdansk] 1630 – L’Aquila, after 1703)

A Wolf

Oil on paper laid down on canvas

9 x 11 inches

(22.8 x 28 cm)



The Marchesi Strozzi, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence
Sale, Christie’s, London, May 20, 1993, lot 315, as by Carl Borromaus Andreas Ruthart,      where acquired by:
Private Collection, New York (1993-2017)


Ruthart has been called one of the most intriguing artistic personalities of seventeenth-century Europe.  He was born and trained in Danzig, before visiting Rome in 1659. From 1663 to 1664 he was in Antwerp, registered in the painter’s guild as “Carlo Routtart,” where he studied Flemish animal painting, especially the work of Jan Fyt and Frans Snyders.  


Ruthart specialized in the depiction of animals –in particular, wild animals— at rest, in conflict, fighting, and being hunted.   His grander compositions incorporated them into the surrounding scenery, as well as depicting them in idyllic settings, in mythological, and in biblical contexts.  Ruthart had a superb understanding of animal anatomy and was adept at depicting animals in motion and at rendering fur with astonishing fidelity. His work is characterized by restrained, cool colors (silver-grey and brown for rocks, blue-green for vegetation and vivid colors for the animals themselves.


In the 1660s Ruthart travelled through Regensburg to Vienna, where he worked for Prince Charles Eusebius of Liechtenstein. In 1672 he was in Venice and Rome, where he saw the work of Giovanni Battista Castiglione. That year he entered the Celestine monastery in Rome and painted altarpieces for the monastery church of S Eusebio. He later moved to the Abbey of S. Maria di Collemaggio in L’Aquila, where he was known as “Pater Andrea” and where he remained until his death.


Paintings by Ruthart are to be found in princely collections and museums across Europe, but the largest holding of the artist’s work remains in L’Aquila, exhibited in the Sala Carlo Ruther of the Museo Nazionale d’Abruzzo.  A group of Ruthart’s oil studies of animals from life were retained by the artist and utilized by him throughout his career as references for his larger compositions.  Nine superb examples passed to the collection of the Marchesi Strozzi in Florence and were dispersed at auction in 1993.  The present study of a wolf is one of these.  It was used by Ruthart in several compositions, including The Fable of the Fox and the Sick Lion (Galleria Nazionale, Rome), Ulysses and Circe of 1666 (formerly, Dresden Gemäldegalerie), and in the lower left of the signed Wild Animals in a Mountain Gorge (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm), illustrated below.

Carl Borromaus Andreas Ruthart,  Wild Animals in a Mountain Gorge  (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm)