1636 Utrecht - 1695 Amsterdam
Canvas, 124,5 x 159,5 cm
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 living peacefully together. The representation of birds lives 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.
He also adds to his scenes a social meaning and reflects the social hierarchy.
This is also the case in our painting with a turkey and a white Hollands kuifhoen. Here too the animals seem to be engaged in little scenes of conversation. There are many little details - just painted for the delight of the beholder. For example in this painting a little chick is hidden in the feathers of the white Hollands kuifhoen whereas others are playing around, a duck at the right as well as a cock, who is sitting a little above, seem to disagree on something.
All these small elements Hondecoeter presents, are painted with extraordinary diligence. Each animal is rendered with its perfect plumage. The acuteness and softness of the feathers seem to be almost touchable.
Hondecoeter is justly said to be the Raffael amongst animal painters.
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 Ier, Paris.
Collection Pierre de Cossé, duc de Brissac.