Archive for the peacocks 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

The Sun King By Way of Cathay;the chinoiserie tapestries of Beauvais

Posted in 17th century, Beauvais tapestries, Bourbon monarchy, Chinoiserie, Francois Boucher, Jean Berain, Louis XIV, peacocks on September 11, 2010 by babylonbaroque

My friend Eleanor Schapa recently posted a commemoration of the Sun King’s birthday (Sept 5th) on her Face Book page; I am ashamed to say I had forgotten.

I will attempt to make amends.

(Young Louis in possibly the gayest costume ever!)

Louis XIV , aged 14, in the role of Apollo, the Celestial Sovereign.

A role young Louis would cultivate throughout his lifetime.

In celebrating the Sun King’s birth, my friend Eleanor, a maven of the decorative arts, listed many of Louis’s attributes. Amongst the many contributions she made mention of the Gobelins tapestries, in particular the Chinoiserie series. Ordinarily Eleanor and I are in complete agreement, but she found them to be unattractive.

I felt a need to re-examine them.

I am NOT a maven concerning anything frankly. I have a broad range of interest and have been familiar with “The Emperor of China” series for some time. From my brief research they seemed to have been of Beauvais manufacture, Gobelins being solely royal production. I’m guessing they were part of Louis frenzied effort to sell the Franco “brand”.

I must say, I still find them exciting and quite beautiful, sorry Eleanor.

“Emperor Sailing”

from the “The Story of the Emperor of China”

after design by Guy-Louis Vernansel


wool, silk, gilt

Art Institute of Chicago

I have always admired the decidedly Western dragons, indifferent to Chinese conventions.

Another example from the “Historie du Roi de Chine “series, further explores the mystery of Cathay.

le Astronomes

from “il historie du roi de Chine”

after designs by Jean -Baptiste Belin de Fontenay


Manufactured by Beauvais 18th cent.


How the hell do you not love that peacock?

Again that very Western dragon, like Brighton Pavilion.

Of course you can’t speak of Louis’s patronage without mention of the great Jean Bérain; his seemingly  inexhaustible imagination created some of the most enchanting grotesquerie ever.

Devotion to  Pan

design by Jean Bérain the Elder


Louis XIV achieved his goal in creating a seemingly eternal desire for French goods.

This tapestry, ca. 1770, is as desirable as it was in the century in which it was designed, as in the century when it was manufactured (1770), and today.

Fashion that is truly timeless.


from the “Portieries of the Gods”

(love that name, as if Olympus had a private decorator)

after designs by Claude Audran le Jeun


ca. 1770 Gobelins


Of course my friend Eleanor had a point, when it comes to Chinoiserie; at it’s most graceful, few could compete with Boucher.

first in the series (of six)

Le Tenture Chinois

(Chinois Wall Hangings)

after designs by Francois Boucher


Louis XV’s Beauvais , 1758


All in all, I think Louis XIV’s take on Chinoiserie is typical of most of the Baroque under his direction. It all appears to be reflect his own splendor, the Chinois series merely a way for Louis to play act the role of an Absolute Mandarin.

Louis did  narcissism well.

Happy Birthday your Majesty!

b. September 5th 1638

d. September 1st 1715

Dieu Sauve le Roi,

Dieu Sauve le Roi,

Dieu Sauve le Roi!

The Talented Mr. Crane

Posted in 19th cent., Aesthetic Movement, peacocks, wallpaper, Walter Crane on July 9, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Inexhaustible,might be more apt.

Most folks seem to be aware of Crane as a designer of really sublime wall-coverings, that is justifiable as the following paper illustrates.

Fig & Peacock


Jeffrey & Company



Walter Crane started out as a child prodigy, beginning as an apprentice at the tender age of twelve to the master engraver W.J. Linton. At seventeen he became an independent illustrator, from that ridiculously young age he began his glorious career. It makes me rather ill.

Walter Crane

1886, aged 41

b. 15th August 1845

d. 14th March 1915

As a designer of gorgeous papers, I feel he has no match. I know Morris is god, but for me , Crane’s narrative quality cannot be matched.Pattern by Morris tastefully recedes, Crane’s design thrust their presence forward. i consider that to be a positive quality.

This marvelous dado/frieze is a great example of his powerful yet poetic design.

Wall-paper Frieze


Jeffrey & Company


What I find most fascinating about Crane is his command of line. The man was a master. He had little patience with his contemporaries who were smudging away with charcoal smears and frantic ink hatching. In his writing, “The Claims of Decorative Arts” 1892, he ridiculed “the want of invention and the absence of purity and precision of line”.

He certainly practiced what he preached, the following illustrations attest to that fact. The line work is pure, convincing,  and Hellenistic. Like Flaxman without the chastity.

The Sleeping Beauty


This is a good example of Crane’s amazing ability at creating interior spaces. Rooms you want to live in.

He made mention of this sort of design work when he said ” However , if they did not bring in much money, I had my fun out of them, as in designing. I was in the habit of putting in all sorts odd  subsidiary detail that interested me, and often made them the vehicle for my ideas in furniture and decoration. ” ( An Artist’s Remembrances, 1907) . Some of his most popular work was in the illustration work for Aesop’s fables. These well loved fables proved fertile ground for Crane’s active mind. I have chosen a few favorites.

Baby’s Own Aesop

front cover


title page


Again, a complex design for a simple function, listing the contents.

I was unfamiliar with this particular fable, but the poor picked upon bat toiuches my heart.

Bats and peacocks are always a favorite theme.

Cranes are also  pretty marvelous.

With this final charming image I close.

Good night.