Johannes Spruyt has placed his handsome water birds against a stormy sky. Wind disturbs the grass and stunted trees behind them – perhaps to emphasise that, although these are farm animals, they are healthy specimens, hardy and resilient against the weather.
The white goose beats its wings and hisses at the tiny ducklings. They seem to sail on, curious but undisturbed, but their father turns, alert and ready to protect them. Overhead, a second goose dives down towards a third.
Spruyt gave his birds life and movement and has observed their habits and behaviour, but the colours and details of texture – feathers, beaks, eyes – may be dimmed by coats of old varnish.
There are other pictures of birds in the National Gallery’s collection, like A Cock, Hens and Chicks and Birds, Butterflies and a Frog among Plants and Fungi, both by Melchior d'Hondecoeter, to whom Spruyt’s picture was once attributed.
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