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Melchior d'Hondecoeter, Birds, Butterflies and a Frog among Plants and Fungi

Key facts
Full title Birds, Butterflies and a Frog among Plants and Fungi
Artist Melchior d'Hondecoeter
Artist dates 1636 - 1695
Date made 1668
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 68.3 × 56.8 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by J. Whitworth Shaw, 1886
Inventory number NG1222
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Birds, Butterflies and a Frog among Plants and Fungi
Melchior d'Hondecoeter

A frog, crouched in the foreground and glittering like a jewel, appears to be causing a stir. The male birds looking down at it seem angry or excited by its presence: they prowl, flutter their wings or glare, feathers ruffled. On a top branch is a chaffinch, fluffing out its plumage; its mate sits below, next to a tree sparrow. The bird closest to the frog, and about to attack, is probably a brambling, a kind of finch.

There was great interest in the natural sciences in seventeenth-century Holland. Many collectors prized pictures like this for their accuracy, displaying them alongside scientific instruments and specimens including stuffed birds and animals. Melchior d'Hondecoeter may well have drawn and sketched his creatures from such a collection; he may even have had one himself. Some collectors, however, bought works like his simply as exotic and dramatic additions to the decoration of their houses.

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