The fable of the drunken stag
The fable, an allegorical literary genre, frequently features animals for moralizing purposes. Animal painters have naturally found it one of their sources of inspiration. The Greek fabulist Aesop can be considered the inventor of this genre which, after him, will inspire many writers, including the famous La Fontaine.
The painters, among whom the Flemish masters of the 17th century, were the most fond of it. This important painting, successively attributed to Frans Snyders, Paul and Cornelis de Vos, Pieter Boel or Jan Cossiers, evokes the esopic fable of the stag who "had become accustomed to drinking wine, so excessively that it made him do a thousand extravagances. One day, when he had drunk more than usual, he hit a tree so hard that he broke his thigh. The scene represented here goes beyond the framework of the fable and places the drunken stag in a rich interior that he mercilessly ravages.