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Melchior de Hondecoeter was born in 1636 in Utrecht, Netherlands. He was an animalier painter, most known for his exquisite and passionate depictions of poultry. Apart from his creating sea-themed compositions, he painted almost exclusively birds, most often exotic birds, but also results from hunting, surrounded by park-like landscapes.
He was born into a family with a respectable artistic background. His father and grandfather were painters, Gijsbert De Hondecoeter and Gillis De Hondecoeter, respectively, both landscape and animal painters. Melchior’s aunt married painter Jan Baptist Weenix, father of his cousin Jan Weenix, who also became a painter. Jan told biographer and artist Arnold Houbraken that young Melchior was very religious, much, so his parents doubted whether to train him as a minister or a painter.
By his 23 years old, Melchior was working at The Hague and soon became a member of the Confrerie Pictura, a sort of academic club for artists unsatisfied with the local Guild of St. Luke.
He later went to Amsterdam, where he married Susanne Tradel, the couple had two children. Houbraken states that Melchior spent most of his time in either the tavern or his garden. He also lived surrounded by several painters and art dealers.
Hondecoeter’s early artistic production was quite different from what he became famous for. At first, the artist produced mainly sea-themed paintings, such as Tub with Fish. Soon, he abandoned painting fishes, as he began to depict birds.
He became highly celebrated for his representations of birds, mainly because he composed them not only as of the result of a hunt or stock from a poultry shop, several of his pictures also represented them as magnificent living beings with a wide range of emotions. Because of that, Melchior was often regarded as the Raphael of bird painting.
At the time, some of his most known were, Birds in a Garden, Poultry and a Spaniel in a farmyard, and Birds in a Park.
At some point, Hondecoeter was employed by William III, and this highly favored the artist among the Dutch Republic magnates. He even adorned two royal castles, the Oranienstein and the Bensberg.
Melchior de Hondecoeter died in April 1695, three years after his wife. He left only for his daughter seven paintings by Frans Snyders, as well as a considerable debt.