An early work by the artist, to be dated to circa 1670, the present lot is characterised by a subdued colour scheme in which the whites (of the hen and the cockerell),the browns (of the pigeon and the chicken on the right)and the grey/sand colour (of the ground) prevail.
The hen and cockerell are depicted in moderate action, which is also a characteristic feature of Hondecoeters' early work.
The theme of the motherhen defending her chickens occurs frequently in paintings by the artist, most notably in that of The threatened hen, of 1681,in the Rijksmuseum (P.J.J. van Thiel,et.al.,All the Paintings,etc.,1876,p.282,no.A 174,ill.).
As pointed out by F.G.Meyer,'Melchior d'Hondecoeter', Haagse Schilders in de Gouden Eeuw, 1998, p.168, the artist was the most important painter of birds in the 17th century, influencing a large number of painters in this genre after him. In 1663,Hondecoeter moved from The Hague to Amsterdam, where he initially continued to paint still lives with dead game, which he also had done in The Hague.
During the 1660's he gradually replaced the still lives by those of living birds and poultry on yards.
To be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of the artist's work, currently prepared by Joy Kearney. Her certificate, dated 7 March 2001, is available to the buyer.