Lot 15
  • 15

Melchior d'Hondecoeter

150,000 - 200,000 USD
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  • Melchior d'Hondecoeter
  • A Peacock, Pigeon, Ducks and other Birds in a Garden Setting
  • signed lower right: M.D. / HO..COET...
  • oil on canvas


Henry Muller, Buenos Aires;
Thence by descent to Georges Henry Paul Muller Simonis, Buenos Aires (1862-1930);
Thence by descent to Luisa Muller, Buenos Aires;
Thence by descent to the present owners.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com , an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting has not been cleaned recently and a fresh varnish would immediately make it more presentable, but if the painting were to be cleaned, more brightness in the fowl and depth in the landscape would be noticeable. As is so very often the case it is the sky which has attracted most, if not all, of the abrasion and subsequent restoration and all around the pigeon in the sky, particularly in the left side of the sky, there is abrasion and restoration. In the remainder of the painting the condition is very good.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

The present painting is a highly representative example of Hondecoeter's work. As far as we know, Hondecoeter did not make preparatory drawings for his paintings. Instead, he made oil sketches of groups of birds and animals from life, fourteen of which were recorded in the inventory of his studio. He used the individual figures from these sketches in his finished paintings, often reusing a figure or a theme in a number of different compositions. The tiny gosling fluttering his wings in the foreground of the present work in fact derives from an oil sketch of ten goslings and ducklings that appeared on the market in the late 1990s.1 Rather than merely recording the general appearance of birds, Hondecoeter imbues a greater sense of realism into his works, creating veritable portraits of birds. Beyond his ability to create realistic likenesses of his favored subjects, Hondecoeter here presents a variation of the maternal theme that was a great compositional favorite, that of the duck protecting her chicks from larger birds (see for example A Cock, Hens and Chickens, National Gallery, London [inv. no. NG202]). In the present work, the centrally located white duck gazes protectively at her offspring due to the arrival from the right and above of the pigeon and peacock. In this painting as in other examples, Hondecoeter engages his audience by conferring human emotions and reactions to the birds he depicts.

We are grateful to Fred Meijer of the RKD for confirming the attribution of the present work to Hondecoeter, based on photographs.

1. Anonymous Sale, Cologne, Lempertz, 20 May 1995, lot 864 and Zurich, Galerie Koller, 19-21 March 1997, lot 29. See RKD illustration no. 0000013053.