Melchior d'Hondecoeter was born into a family of artists. His grandfather Gillis painted landscapes, and his father Gijsbert, under whom Melchior trained, was a celebrated bird painter. After the latter's death in 1653, he entered the Utrecht studio of his uncle, Jan Baptist Weenix, whose oeuvre included many paintings of birds. Melchior subsequently based himself in Amsterdam, and became the pre-eminent specialist of this genre of painting in the second half of the century. Large-scale decorative game-pieces were popular amongst wealthy Amsterdam merchants to adorn the walls of their town houses and country mansions.
Hondecoeter's mature style owes much to Frans Snyders, whose work he collected. From him, 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, their bodies sometimes cropped by the frame, the middle ground blocked by a wall, fence, tree or architectural ruins across one half of the canvas, the remaining side opening to a distant vista.
We are grateful to Fred Meijer, of the RKD in The Hague, for confirming the attribution on the basis of photographs.