HONDECOETER, Melchior d'
(b. 1636, Utrecht, d. 1695, Amsterdam)

Dead Birds and Hunting Equipment in a Niche

c. 1633
Oil on canvas, 56 x 46 cm
Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

In the seventeenth century, wealthy Dutch burghers could show their status by displaying hunting equipment in their hussies, or by having themselves portrayed in hunting gear. Another possibility was to display still-lifes showing the spoils of the hunt. Consequently, many such still-lifes were produced, both by specialist still-life painters and by other artists who occasionally tackled the subject. Since large game was rare in the North Netherlands, most of these still-lifes included birds and small game such as hares. Melchior d'Hondecoeter was one of the main specialists of the genre.

In the present painting the spoils of the hunt are modest: only a partridge and two finches. The partridge may have been hunted with the aid of a falcon; at the top of the niche two colourful hoods for hunting falcons are displayed. Finches were caught in various ways, among them nets; behind the birds the artist painted a net used for catching small game.

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