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Melchior de Hondecoeter

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Melchior de Hondecoeter Biography


Utrecht 1636 - 1695 Amsterdam



Melchior de Hondecoeter, known in the nineteenth century as the ‘Raphael of bird painters’ is one of the most renowned seventeenth century Dutch masters in this field. He was born into a family of artists and studied with his father Gijsbert Gillisz. de Hondecouter (1603/4-1653) and his uncle Jan Baptist Weenix (1618/19-1659).


Hondecoeter worked in The Hague from August 1658, in the house of the art collector Philemon Lissant. The following year he joined The Hague guild. In 1663 he married a girl from Amsterdam and by September 1664 had moved to his new wife’s home city, where he obtained citizenship in 1668. Melchior de Hondecoeter painted a variety of domestic and exotic birds distinguished by their brightly coloured and carefully observed plumage. These birds were often set in farmyards, courtyards or elegant parks and enhanced by the introduction of architectural features or distant landscape views. His compositions were sometimes enlivened by cocks fighting and attacks from birds of prey. Two highly unusual allegorical works, traditionally entitled Emblematic representations of King William’s wars (Holkham Hall, Norfolk) depict birds battling monsters and, in the lower half, naval battles and the destruction of war.


Hondecoeter appeared to study his birds from the life chiefly in oil sketches rather than by making drawings. One of these modelli, Study of ducklings, was sold at Lempertz, Cologne on 20th May 1995, lot 864. During his lifetime, Hondecoeter’s works were greatly sought after. He painted large, decorative murals for the town and country houses of rich Amsterdam burghers. Outstanding among these are the murals which adorned Driemond, a large country house near Weesp that belonged to the merchant Adolph Visser (parts are now in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich).


The work of Melchior de Hondecoeter is represented in the Rijksmuseum; the Historisch Museum, Amsterdam; the Alte Pinakothek, Munich; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Hermitage, St Petersburg and the National Gallery, London. Numerous paintings in country houses in England and abroad are still in situ.





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