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A Cock, Hens and Chicks
Melchior d'Hondecoeter
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Melchior d‘Hondecoeter specialised in large decorative paintings of birds, often mixing domestic and ornamental fowl with wild ones, as he does in this picture. A wild pigeon perches on a wooden yoke that leans against an overturned wicker basket, while a finch wings its way towards it.

The exotic chickens are probably Polish – in spite of their name, a breed first recorded in the Netherlands and established there by the seventeenth century. They were bred for their eggs but also for their colours and extravagant appearance. Such a picture would have been highly prized for its detailed representation of the fowl, and as an idealised view of life on a farm.

Although d’Hondecoeter drew and sketched from life, he painted in the studio – common practice among seventeenth-century Dutch artists. He may have also worked from birds preserved by taxidermy, a means of preparing, stuffing and mounting the skins of animals with a lifelike effect.

Key facts
Artist Melchior d'Hondecoeter
Artist dates 1636 - 1695
Full title A Cock, Hens and Chicks
Date made about 1668-70
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 85.5 x 110 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Richard Simmons, 1847
Inventory number NG202
Location in Gallery Not on display
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