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Still Life with Animals
Hondecoeter, Melchior d´
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Hondecoeter, Melchior d´

Utrecht, 1636 - Amsterdam, 1695

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Still Life with Animals

1680 - 1690. Oil on canvas. Not on display

The painting featured here is an example of the characteristic compositions with poultry in which D`Hondecoeter specialised. This type of painting was brought to Utrecht in 1619 by Roeland Savery (1576-1639), who had, in turn, been introduced to this genre -of which the most prominent and influential practitioner was Frans Snyders (1592-1667-) while at the court of Rudolf II of Prague.

D`Hondecoeter, however, was fond of infusing the main scene with a dramatic force that was absent from the paintings of Savery and even from those of his own father and his uncle Jan Baptist Weenix (1621-1659/61), who were solely interested in describing the different types of birds and their plumage. Here the drama revolves around the wolf, which has been interrupted when about to deal with its latest prey -a lamb and a goose- and bares its teeth on sensing something or someone approaching from the left.

As typically found in D`Hondecoeter`s works, the composition is structured into three parallel planes. The almost life-sized animals in the main scene are positioned in the foreground, very close to the viewer. Two hens and a cockerel, in varied poses, occupy the midground, which is enclosed on one side and opens onto a broad background landscape on the other. Here the architecture commonly employed by D`Hondecoeter to separate the background and thus convert the foreground into a sort of stage on which the action unfolds is replaced by dense vegetation among which a broken wooden fence pokes out. A pheasant flies over the background landscape, in which it is possible to discern a shepherd with his flock, which may explain or bear some relation to the main scene.

The palette of earthy tones and greens, with slight splashes of local colour on the crests and plumage of the birds, unifies the animals and the scenery. Three white focal points -the goose, the lamb and the sheep in the background- provide a touch of light and steer the viewer`s gaze towards the back in a zigzag movement that imbues the scene with a certain amount of dynamism. A striking feature is the modern, almost photographic framing that cuts off the figures of some of the animals at the edges and which D`Hondecoeter employs habitually to give his scenes a lively, natural appearance.

The technique is consistent with the painter`s mature style, when he achieved greater unity of the pictorial surface by replacing the detailed rendering of the animals` different feathers and coats with a general sensation of plumage or fur. It may form part of the group of compositions which Trnek (1992) dates to the 1680s and believes to have been intended to hang over doors or fireplaces.

The presence of the wolf and the dead goose, rare in D`Hondecoeter`s oeuvre, situate the Prado painting halfway between the peaceful poultry yard scenes and the dramatic animal fights, or even game still lifes, although in this case the game has been retrieved by an animal, not a human. There is a second, similar but bloodier version of this scene, in which the flesh of the goose`s neck has been ripped out and instead of the feather that falls from the edge of the stone, a bone is visible.

It has been argued that D`Hondecoeter`s scenes of this type are a metaphor of human conduct or a visual representation of Dutch proverbs and sayings. Díaz Padrón (1995) believes that the present scene is inspired by a print by Virgil Solis (1514-1562) illustrating the fable of the wolf and the lamb (Posada Kubissa, T.: Pintura holandesa en el Museo Nacional del Prado. Catálogo razonado, 2009, p. 304).


Technical data

Inventory number
Hondecoeter, Melchior d´
Still Life with Animals
1680 - 1690
Height: 141 cm.; Width: 172 cm.
Acquisition, 1994

Bibliography +

Catálogo de pintura flamenca y holandesa de colecciones españolas, Barcelona, 1956, pp. 80.

Valdivieso, Enrique, Pintura Holandesa del siglo XVII en españa, Universidad, Valladolid, 1973.

Trnek, Renate, Die Hollandischen Gemalde des 17. Jahrhunderts in Der Gemald..., Bohlau Verlag, Viena. Colonia. Weimar, 1992, pp. 224.

Museo del Prado, Últimas adquisiciones: 1982-1995, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1995, pp. 86.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: catálogo de las pinturas, Ministerio de Educación y Cultura, Madrid, 1996, pp. 175.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, III, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996.

Posada Kubissa, Teresa, Pintura holandesa en el Museo Nacional del Prado. Catálogo razonado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2009, pp. 71-72.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2362.
Autor: Hondecoeter, Melchior d' / 2362 (7686) Título: Bodegón con animales. / Tipo de obra: Pintura./ Técnica/soporte: Óleo sobre lienzo. / Medidas: 1,41 x 1,72 m. / Nº de catálogo: P-07686. / Observaciones: firmado: "M.D. Hondecoeter" / en el travesaño de la cerca. / Adquirido por el Museo, por derecho de retrac- / to, a M. Kimberly a través de Christie's en / 5.000.000 pts. Resolución del Mº de Cultura de / 10-XI-1994. / Tuvo entrada en el Museo el 25-X-94

Exhibitions +

Dutch Painters at the Prado
03.12.2009 - 11.04.2010

Update date: 16-10-2020 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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