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Pieter de Hooch, 'A Man with Dead Birds, and Other Figures, in a Stable', about 1655

Key facts
Full title A Man with Dead Birds, and Other Figures, in a Stable
Artist Pieter de Hooch
Artist dates 1629 - after 1684
Date made about 1655
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 53.5 × 49.7 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by F.N. and O.S. Ashcroft in memory of their parents, 1924
Inventory number NG3881
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A Man with Dead Birds, and Other Figures, in a Stable
Pieter de Hooch

A dog sniffs at a heap of dead birds on the floor, but the focus of this quiet scene seems to be on the young woman cradling her baby. She looks down at the creatures, her expression shuttered. The picture was originally quite different: beneath the birds, which were added during the nineteenth century, is the figure of a wounded man, probably a soldier.

A series of rectangles – some open, some closed – define the space and give a glimpse of the fascination and skill in the use of perspective that became central to de Hooch’s work. On the right, clothes draped over a wooden plank catch the light, giving depth to the shadowy area behind it. To the left, sketchily painted objects hang on another wooden half wall; behind them, a web of narrow beams angle upwards to give height to the ceiling overhead.

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