The Dutch painter Melchior de Hondecoeter specialized in images of birds and other animals. In an era before photography, when most artists contented themselves with painting mounted specimens, it was a challenge to depict live animals behaving naturally. Art critic Charles Blanc writes that “…before having succeeded so well…Hondecoeter made a long study, not only of [the subject’s] external form, but of its habits, customs and manner of life. His studio had been turned into a menagerie, or, rather, a game preserve. He had paid particular attention to the education of a handsome cock, which seemed to comprehend every word and gesture of his master; and who, at the slightest sign, came near the easel and posed, often in very fatiguing attitudes, for hours.” The birds in this piece were probably specimens from the menagerie of stadholder Willem III at Het Loo Palace.
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Melchior de Hondecoeter : “A Pelican and Other Birds Near a Pool, Known as ‘The Floating Feather'” (c. 1680)
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