Birds on a Balustrade, Melchior d' Hondecoeter, c. 1680 - c. 1690
Melchior d’Hondecoeter is the best-known bird painter of the 17th century. He brought the genre to great heights. He portrayed birds from all over the world with a great sensitivity for detail, colour, and animation: chicken, hoopoe or parrot, he observed them all equally closely. This oil sketch of chicks affords unique insight into D’Hondecoeter’s working practice. He used such studies as the basis for his monumental park landscapes (on view in Gallery 2.22), which feature diverse species of birds. Depicted in this sketch are seven chicks in various poses. They were frequently reused in a ‘copy & paste’ fashion in his paintings, as for instance in his Birds on a Balustrade.