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This artwork, A shoveler (Anas clypeata), a Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata), a mallard, pochards and other waterfowl on the banks of a river, with a pigeon and a bird of prey in the air by Melchior de Hondecoeter, is currently for sale at Richard Green.
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Melchior de Hondecoeter, A shoveler (Anas clypeata), a Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata), a mallard, pochards and other waterfowl on the banks of a river, with a pigeon and a bird of prey in the air
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TITLE:  A shoveler (Anas clypeata), a Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata), a mallard, pochards and other waterfowl on the banks of a river, with a pigeon and a bird of prey in the air
ARTIST:  Melchior de Hondecoeter (Dutch, 1636–1695)
CATEGORY:  Paintings
MARKINGS:  Signed lower left: M DHondecoeter
SIZE:  h: 111.4 x w: 142.2 cm / h: 43.9 x w: 56 in
SIZE:  Frame size: 129.5 x 160 cm / 51 x 63 in
STYLE:  Baroque
PRICE*:  Contact Gallery for Price
GALLERY:  Richard Green  +44 (0) 207 493 3939  
DESCRIPTION:  Melchior de Hondecoeter’s paintings are remarkable for their acute observation of the behaviour and plumage of birds and for a daring use of light which gives them an almost hyper-real quality. This is especially apparent in the present work, which is of superb quality and very well preserved. Here, as so often, Hondecoeter makes a dramatic scene from a group of birds gathered together. The calm of the riverbank is ruffled by a Muscovy duck, which chases off a shoveler apparently threatening its territory. Alarm spreads to the ducklings; a pigeon rises in the air and, sinisterly above all, a hawk hovers, deciding among all this plump prey. The landscape elements are especially fine. Beyond the crowded foreground scene, a gentle sunset leads the eye into the distance, past a broad waterway and a village and church on the bank.

Most of the birds here are familiar, native species. To the left, fleeing the Muscovy duck, is a shoveler (Anas clypeata), a type of dabbling duck with a broad beak native to northern Europe. Behind it is a shelduck. The showy appearance of the Muscovy duck led Hondecoeter frequently to include them in his paintings. Particularly wonderful here is the sense of the energy and anger in this bird, and the exquisite painting of the ruffled wings. Native to Central and South America, Muscovy ducks were domesticated before Columbus arrived in the New World. They derive their name from the Muscovy Company, which began shipping them to Europe in the mid-sixteenth century.

The tiny duckling with its back turned, rising in alarm, also appears in other paintings by Hondecoeter. He seems to have studied his birds from life chiefly by making oil sketches rather than the drawings employed by many of his contemporaries; these were retained in the studio for reference. The duckling seen from behind derives from an oil sketch of ten ducklings which was sold at Lempertz, Cologne on 20th May 1995, lot 864, and again at Koller, Zurich on 19th March 1997, lot 291.

The present painting comes from a distinguished collection of mainly Dutch and Flemish Old Masters put together in the mid-eighteenth century by John Warde (1731-1775) of Squerryes Court, Westerham, Kent. Warde inherited Squerryes in 1746 from his father John Warde, who had bought the house in 1731. John Warde Jnr. was painted by Devis and Stubbs. His manuscript ‘Catalogue of Pictures of my own Collecting’ documents ninety-three pictures bought for a total of £692.8s. Fifty-four of these remain at Squerryes. Warde’s taste ranged from two large works by Luca Giordano, to a painting by Pieter de Ring, to a small copy of a van Mieris by Liotard, purchased at Liotard’s own sale at Christie’s. Warde’s most ambitious acquisition was a family portrait by Frans Hals, today in the Museo de Arte Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.

1 Oil on canvas 12 ½ x 15 ¾ in / 32 x 40 cm.

PROVENANCE:  Anonymous sale, Burnsall’s, London 1758 (11 guineas to John Warde)
John Warde (1721-1775), Squerryes Court, Westerham, Kent; by descent
ONLINE CATALOGUE(S):  Richard Green Inventory Catalogue
LITERATURE:  John Warde, ‘Catalogue of Pictures of my own Collecting’, Squerryes MS, no.26, as Water Fowl by Hondicoeter
Francis Russell, ‘John Warde’, Country Life, 4th June 1987, p.218
EXHIBITION HISTORY:  Canterbury, Royal Museum and Art Gallery, Treasures from Kent Houses, 23rd September-13th October 1984, no.8
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