Melchior d'Hondecoeter came from a highly artistic family. His grandfather Gillis was a landscapist, and his father Gijsbert a celebrated bird painter (particularly of waterfowl and poultry). He studied under his father until the latter's death in 1653, and then entered the Utrecht studio of his uncle, Jan Baptist Weenix, whose oeuvre included many paintings of birds. Hondecoeter subsequently based himself in Amsterdam, and became the pre-eminent specialist of this branch of painting.
Hondecoeter's mature style owes much to his uncle's work, notably in the richness of style, tone and colour that characterise his works. In addition, however, his paintings show the enduring influence of Frans Snyders, whose work he also collected. From Snyders, Hondecoeter borrowed a compositional formula that he used consistently from the late 1660s: birds and animals seen close up in the centre of the canvas, others entering from the left or right - as here with the peacock - their bodies sometimes cropped by the frame, the middle ground blocked by a wall (as in the present picture), fence, tree or architectural ruins across one half of the canvas, the remaining side opening to a distant vista.
Hondecoeter's landscapes are revealing in demonstrating the tastes of his clientele. The same rich, Italianate quality - a further evidence of the influence of his uncle, who had worked in Italy in the 1640s - of Hondecoeter's painting style is often repeated in depictions of the type of formal Italianate garden or park that was fashionable at the time. The background of the present painting is typical in that respect, but is distinguished also by the inclusion of an elegant mansion of a style reminiscent of Italian palazzi. This may well be more specifically evidence of the fashion for the Dutch Classical style introduced to the United Provinces and led by Jacob van Campen.
We are grateful to Fred Meijer of the RKD for confirming the attribution on inspection of the original.