Monthly Masterpiece December 2015


    Utrecht 1636 - 1695 Amsterdam

    Still Life with Hunting Trophies

    Canvas: 73 x 60 cm
    Painted: c. 1660

    Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder, The Hague

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    Melchior d’Hondecoeter (1636-1695) was the most celebrated Dutch bird painter of his day. He had an unparalleled ability to portray the plumage of a wide variety of fowl with lifelike accuracy. This Still Life with Hunting Trophies exemplifies his skill in rendering different textures magnificently. Works from d’Hondecoeter’s prolific oeuvre may be found in most of the world’s leading museums, including in Amsterdam and St. Petersburg.

    Hondecoeter was born in Utrecht in 1636, the last scion of a family of painters well known for their landscapes and still lifes with birds. Painting was a craft that was passed from father to son. After his father’s untimely death, Melchior was apprenticed to his uncle Jan Baptist Weenix (Amsterdam 1621-1660 Utrecht). In 1663, he moved to Amsterdam and built up a clientele of wealthy patricians. Indeed, Hondecoeter also received prestigious commissions from Stadholder King Willem III to decorate his hunting lodge at Het Loo and Soestdijk palace.

    Still Life with Hunting Trophies

    In this still life, the viewer’s eye is led diagonally from a brace of small, colourful birds in the foreground, towards the pigeon in the centre of the composition. Beside it lies a magpie, and a leather game bag on a stone slab, set in a landscape. D’Hondecoeter depicted the play of the light on the white and pale-brown feathers of its extended wing with exquisite skill. The way the textures are rendered is astonishing. The feathers and soft down are so realistic that it is hard to resist the temptation to touch and feel the plumage.

    This is equally true of the two downy feathers in the foreground which are rendered with utmost precision. You automatically hold your breath in case they accidentally blow away. This is the trademark of Melchior d’Hondecoeter’s game and fowl still lifes.

    The eye is also drawn to the twisting form of the poppy plant. It forms a repoussoir, enhancing the sense of depth and space in the composition. Via the rounded forms of the plant and the deep red of the flower, the eye travels toward the high wicker basket with the hunter’s nets, as well as a bullfinch and a partridge. The contrast between the hard, smooth stone of the dark rocky background and the soft feathers of the birds is remarkable.

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    Please feel free to come view the Monthly Masterpiece in our gallery.

    This picture will be included in the current exhibition and sale:
    Hunting, Game & Painting in the Golden Age (November 2015 – February 2016).

    See also: Monthly Masterpiece October 2015 – Italianate Landscape with Figures and Animals in the Foreground >
    See also: Monthly Masterpiece June 2015 – Still Life with Fruit, Hunting Trophies, a Parrot, a Cat and a Dog >
    See also: Monthly Masterpiece April 2015 – A Cannon near a Guard Post>
    See also: Monthly Masterpiece March 2015 – Elegant Company >
    See also: Monthly Masterpiece February 2015 – Still Life with Fruit and Birds >
    See also: Monthly Masterpiece December 2014 – Adoration of the Shepherds >
    See also: Monthly Masterpiece November 2014 – Esau selling his Birthright >