Archive for the Melchior d’ Hondecoeter Category

Melchior d’ Hondecoeter’s Fantastic Menagerie

Posted in 17th century, Melchior d' Hondecoeter, peacocks on March 10, 2011 by babylonbaroque

I am currently working on an allegorical self portrait, I chose as my totems the Dodo bird and the Peacock; both represent my temperament  rather well.

In my desire for avian accuracy I immediately turned not  to the works of Audubon or the ever useful Peterson’s ; instead I turned to that Dutch  master of plumed beauty, Melchior d’ Hondecoeter.

Palace of Amsterdam with Exotic Birds

ca. 1670



ca. 1690

Menagerie detail

b. 1636

d. 3rd of April 1695

Initially having focused on the paintings of sea creatures, d’Hondecoeter turned his attention to the painting of birds.

Melchior d’Hondecoeter broke from tradition pretty early  on in his career, for instead of  depicting birds solely as caught game , which had been the rather grisly norm, he depicted them as living beings full of vivacity and delight.

ca.1660 approvimately





Metropolitan Museum of Art


I much prefer this feisty little living squirrel to the admirably painted yet quite dead hare depicted above.

Melchior d’Hondecoeter’s work was well regarded, he was commissioned by William III to paint the royal menagerie at Het Loo Palace.

King William III of England


painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller


Melchior d’ Hondecoeter was also responsible for the following image, clearly a bit of propaganda.

William III’s Lowlands Wars II


Like much of his work, this painting is unsigned; I almost question its authenticity, it lacks the artist’s obvious  delight in depicting fowl.

Upon his death part of Melchior d’ Hondecoeter’s estate included works by that other great painter of birds ( and critters) Frans Snyder (1579-1657).Snyder’s best remember as the artist Ruben’s employed to depict animals within his own paintings had an incredible ability to capture the essence of our furred and feathered neighbors.

It is now wonder that Melchior held his work in such esteem.

The Fable of the Fox and the Heron

Frans Snyder

before 1657

Snyder clearly delighted in birds as the following illustrates.

Concert of Birds

Frans Snyders


Melchior d’Hondecoeter played upon this popular theme himself.

Das Vogelkonzert


As is apparent I am crazy about this “minor” artist, perhaps even considered a mere craftsman in his day; I can only hope to aspire to the feathered magic wrought by Melchior’s studio.

Perhaps when my painting is complete I will have the audacity to post an image.

Until then the Met has put together this really marvelous “Birding” tour of their holdings, highlighting works that feature birds, I hope you enjoy it.

Believe it or not Melchior has a Facebook page, unfortunately it only has 7 followers including this author, I hope my readers will change that.

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque