Lot 57
  • 57

Melchior d'Hondecoeter

300,000 - 500,000 USD
372,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Melchior d'Hondecoeter
  • A peacock and pea hen with a crane, chickens and other birds in a landscape
  • signed upper center: M D'Hondecoeter
  • oil on canvas
  • 59 by 70 1/2  in.; 149.9 by 179 cm.


Viscount Berrington;
With Noortman & Brod, New York;
From whom acquired by the present collector.


Amsterdam, Kunsthandel Douwes, Catalogus der tentoonstelling van oude schilderijen, 7 May - 2 June 1934, no. 32.

Catalogue Note

This splendid painting demonstrates Hondecoeter’s remarkable skill as a painter of birds, for which he was justly famed in his own time.  The popularity of his work endured and in the 19th century he was known as the “Raphael of birds.”  His training began in Utrecht with his father Gijsbert and his uncle Jan Baptist Weenix .  After several years working in The Hague, he settled in Amsterdam in 1663 where he remained for the rest of his life, providing large-scale pictures for the town houses and country estates of the city’s wealthy citizens.

This work depicts an assortment of exotic birds and fowl in a vast park-like setting. The composition is dominated by a male peacock whose magnificent tail cascades diagonally down into the foreground.  Also included are a pea hen, a black crowned crane, chickens, a waxwing, a pelican and several other species.  The compositional format of this painting—with the foreground occupied by an array of meticulously observed birds, a stone wall in the middle ground blocking one side, and the other side opening up to a distant vista —was a favorite of Hondecoeter’s.  Similar paintings using this formula, and also including a male peacock seen from a similar angle, can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Acc. no. 27.250.1) and in the Wallace Collection, London (P64).

Hondecoeter does not appear to have made preparatory drawings but instead used oil sketches, made from life, that he kept in his studio and reused in different compositions. For example, the swallow seen swooping downward in the sky at upper left also appears in the Metropolitan Museum and Wallace collection paintings mentioned above.  Though he reused elements and motifs, it is a testament to his skill and inventiveness that in the best of Hondecoeter’s work, such as this example, his paintings remain remarkably fresh and spontaneous.