My favourite painting: Will Fisher

Will Fisher of Jamb chooses a huge and dramatic Rubens.

Will Fisher on his choice, The Hippopotamus and Crocodile Hunt by Peter Paul Rubens

‘I have a fantasy — one I can share — of ending my days in a large room filled with my five favourite objects. One of these, to be hung on a back wall behind a magnificent sofa, would be this dramatic and over-scale image by Rubens. I firmly believe this would fill me with limitless joy!

‘The subject matter, a swirl of activity, remains as exotic today as it would have been in the 17th century. I have always loved monumental objects and works of art, but, in this painting, Rubens draws you into the turmoil, creating an arresting and all-consuming scene.

‘For now, I will carry on manifesting and playing the lottery, in the hope it will miraculously appear on my wall.’

Will Fisher is the founder of Jamb, which deals in antique and reproduction fireplaces, fire grates and lighting

Charlotte Mullins comments on The Hippopotamus and Crocodile Hunt

Peter Paul Rubens painted a series of hunting scenes on large canvases. They feature lions, wolves, boars and foxes and were designed to take the place of traditional hunting tapestries, which were far more costly. Rubens was an astute businessman who ran a large studio in Antwerp and used his experience as a diplomat to win lucrative commissions from European royalty.

The Hippopotamus and Crocodile Hunt was originally part of a cycle of hunting paintings commissioned by Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria, for the old Schleissheim Palace near Munich. It is a masterclass in dynamic composition, full of energy and action. Three mounted noblemen prepare to plunge spears into the flank of a raging hippopotamus. A hunter who lies trapped beneath a serpentine crocodile clutches a dagger, ready to thrust it into the hippo’s raging mouth. Another man lies unconscious in the foreground. Each drawn dagger and spear, rearing horse and prone leg directs the eye diagonally into the centre of this dramatic composition, towards the hippo’s snarling mouth.

Rubens may have studied a dead hippopotamus preserved in brine when he spent time in Rome in the early years of the 17th century. Certainly his depictions of the crocodile and hippopotamus are far more lifelike than any by his contemporaries or antecedents. In Rome, he also absorbed the drama of Roman sculpture exemplified by the Laocoön, as well as paintings by the theatrical Caravaggio, all of which he brought to bear on this painting.

Recommended videos for you