MELCHIOR D'HONDECOETER (UTRECHT 1636-1695 AMSTERDAM)
MELCHIOR D'HONDECOETER (UTRECHT 1636-1695 AMSTERDAM)
MELCHIOR D'HONDECOETER (UTRECHT 1636-1695 AMSTERDAM)
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MELCHIOR D'HONDECOETER (UTRECHT 1636-1695 AMSTERDAM)

A sarus crane, a flamingo, a wild bronze turkey cock, two Paduan fowl, a silver birchen game cockerel, and a hoopoe in a landscape

Details
MELCHIOR D'HONDECOETER (UTRECHT 1636-1695 AMSTERDAM)
A sarus crane, a flamingo, a wild bronze turkey cock, two Paduan fowl, a silver birchen game cockerel, and a hoopoe in a landscape
signed and dated 'MD hondecoeter. / 1675' (center right)
oil on canvas
61 7⁄8 x 69 7⁄8 in. (157.2 x 177.5 cm.)
Provenance
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 10 December 1993, lot 296, where acquired by Covent Garden Gallery, acting on behalf of the present owner.

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Lot Essay

Melchior d’Hondecoeter was the leading bird painter during the Dutch Golden Age, a fact which earned him the moniker the ‘Raphael of bird painters’ in the nineteenth century. The present painting is a particularly fine, large-scale example of his work in which exotic birds feature in the foreground of a courtyard or lush garden setting, at times – as here – including a classical structure in the background. Hondecoeter’s visual vocabulary developed in the studios of his father, Gijsbert Gillisz. de Hondecoeter, and his uncle, Jan Baptist Weenix, but Melchior’s works are equally informed by the those of the Antwerp artist Frans Snyders.
Such paintings were avidly acquired by Amsterdam’s patrician elite, who frequently installed them within the spacious interiors of their country estates, some of which contained actual menageries on their grounds. Though common to modern viewers, Hondecoeter has selected what would have been rarely encountered species to the seventeenth-century viewer – a wild turkey and American flamingo (indicated by the pink and white bill with pronounced black tip) from the Americas; a sarus crane, which is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia; and an African hoopoe. Taken together with the local European fowl at center, the represented birds originated in each of the four known continents in the seventeenth century and signaled the extent of the Republic’s global reach.
Hondecoeter developed his large-scale paintings through ad vivum drawings and oil sketches of birds captured in various poses which were often repurposed in multiple compositions. An identical hoopoe reappears in several other works, including the Birds on a balustrade of circa 1680 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) and another painting sold Christie’s, New York, 29 January 1999, lot 179. Similarly, the same flamingo features again in a painting dated 1679 at Dyrham Park, South Gloucestershire.

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