Birds Galore

Birds Galore

The Old Master paintings from the Marion collection include masterful large-scale works by the greatest still life and bird painters of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, such as Jakob Bogdány and Melchior d’Hondecoeter. Much like the original royal and noble collectors of these paintings, modern collectors like Mrs. Marion continue to appreciate the elegance and exoticness found in the diversity of species, bold color palettes, and attention to natural detail in the works. Such paintings serve as a permanent menagerie or aviary for the collector to enjoy.
The Old Master paintings from the Marion collection include masterful large-scale works by the greatest still life and bird painters of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, such as Jakob Bogdány and Melchior d’Hondecoeter. Much like the original royal and noble collectors of these paintings, modern collectors like Mrs. Marion continue to appreciate the elegance and exoticness found in the diversity of species, bold color palettes, and attention to natural detail in the works. Such paintings serve as a permanent menagerie or aviary for the collector to enjoy.

B irds have always fascinated mankind, if only for the fact that they can fly, and we cannot. They also come in a wide variety of sizes and colors, which makes them exciting to the eye. So it is no wonder that birds have always been depicted, dating back to cave paintings from the Stone Age. In the seventeenth century, when decorative oil paintings started to become fashionable, scenes with birds as the main subject almost immediately appeared, featuring birds ranging from domestic barnyard fowl to wildly exotic species that sparked the imagination of painters and viewers alike.

Lots 35 and 37 in the Marion home in Palm Desert.

Several artists had access to newly formed aviaries, for instance at royal and princely courts, where species from all over the world were assembled and could be studied. One such artist was Melchior d’Hondecoeter, who would become the leading painter of scenes with live birds, working for royalty, nobility and, not in the least, for the wealthy Dutch bourgeoisie. Initially, he was probably inspired by the work of his father and teacher, Gijsbert de Hondecoeter (1603/04-1653), who portrayed domestic fowl, like chickens, ducks, and geese. His grandfather, Gillis (1575/80-1638), had already painted landscapes with birds, in his turn looking for inspiration at seminal paintings by Roelant Savery (1576-1639), who had worked for Emperor Rudolf II in Prague.

Lot 34 in the Marion home in Palm Desert.

Melchoir d’Hondecoeter’s bird paintings are always full of action, interaction, and fine detail, and one can easily imagine the flutter of wings, the screeching of the peacocks and the peeping of the chicks. His work was immensely popular in Britain and several artists working there followed in his footsteps, such as Jakob Bogdány, Bogdàny’s son-in-law Tobias Stranover, and Marmaduke Cradock. Bogdàny was from Hungary and Stranover was born in Romania and both had travelled via the Netherlands to England, where they built successful careers.

Lot 36 in the Marion home in Palm Desert.

English aristocrats in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries also collected bird paintings by Flemish artists. The tradition in Flanders can be traced back to Frans Snijders (1579-1657), genius painter of still lifes and scenes with animals. His pupil Joannes Fijt (1609/11-1661) was the teacher of Peeter Boel (1622-1674), who eventually became court painter of animals to King Louis XIV. Back in Antwerp, Boel had trained David de Coninck, who became a prolific painter of still lifes and animals, working in Rome from 1671 to 1694, from where many grand-tourists brought his works home with them to England. Peacocks, turkeys, and parrots were favorite subjects for his forceful paintings. Beyond the success in their own time, the works of these seventeenth-century masters would remain inspirational for artists well into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Featured Highlights

Highlights from the Collection of Mrs. John L. Marion on view in New York 1 – 12 May
Master Paintings Exhibition on view in New York 15 – 19 May

All interior images courtesy of Pacific Sotheby's International Realty, Coachella Valley

Old Master Paintings

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