MELCHIOR DE HONDECOETER
Utrecht 1636 - 1695 Amsterdam
Still Life With Goose
Canvas, 139,5 x 166 cm
Still Life With Goose
Bought mid-19th century in Holland by a member of the Schneider family.
Collection Eugène Schneider II, Paris.
Collection madame Eugène Schneider II, Hôtel Schneider, 34 cours Albert
Collection Pierre de Cossé, duc de Brissac.
In flemish painting, the theme of the poultry farm was originally established by Frans Snyders around 1630, but the main specialist for this subject was Melchior de Hondecoeter.
Animal painting was very popular those days, poultry farms were symbols of wealth.
Painting birds in general or poultry was very difficult, as they are – by nature – constantly moving. Animal painters were taught to nail the birds they had to paint in the position they wanted them on a surface – or had fixed them with cords, for the flight position. The story goes that Melchior de Hondecoeter had a tamed cock who would stay in every demanded position, like a perfect model.
The theme of a poultry farm with exotic birds could be seen as the prosperity of Gods creation, or even as reconstruction of Paradise where all different kinds of birds live peacefully together. The representation of birds lifes seemed to have been allegedly used as allusions to society life: in terms of social class, solidarity and harmony – but also concerning conflicts within these communities.
Melchior de Hondecoeter was the most outstanding painter in that genre and more than deserves his sobriquet as being the Raffael amongst animal painters. Born in 1636 in Utrecht he went to Den Haag in 1659 and became member and chairman of the painters guild. In 1668 he received the citizenship of Amsterdam, where he died in 1695. He was taught by his father and by his uncle Jan Baptist Weenix, but was also influenced by Abraham van Beyeren.
Compared to his precursors, Hondecoeter was extremely gifted and particularly able to paint animals in their movement, their motion as well as in flight. He observed and studied the animals he painted meticulously. The feathers of the animals are rendered brilliantly. His compositions were meant to meet decorative and aesthetic demands.
The central subjects in his painting are almost always having eye contact with the beholder. One has to state in general that Hondecoeter is following very strict compositorial rules, which can also be seen in the line of sight between the poultry he is showing. By doing so, he also adds to this scenes a social meaning and reflexion of social hierarchy.
Having a closer look at the painting with the chinese goose, all the inherent structure of communication as well as social standing within the animals can be discerned in the painting. The little duck poult in the foreground seems to be engaged in a conversation with the duck at the right of the chinese goose and the cocks in the backround seem to be engaged in a verbal fight.
These little scenes within the scenery are adding a special liveliness to Hondecoeters’ paintings.