Read about the life and work of Melchior d'Hondecoeter - Wall masters

Melchior d' Hondecoeter

Wall masters Hondecoeter Menagerie 600x600 2

1636 - 1695

The life of Melchior d'Hondecoeter

Melchior was born in 1636 in Utrecht. He is the son of Gijsbert Gillisz d'Hondecoeter (1604-1653) and Marie Melchiors Hulsman (1611-1651) and grandson of Gilles Claesz d'Hondecoeter who fled from Mechelen, Belgium, to Delft via Antwerp for economic reasons.
His grandfather and father were both also painters. Melchior's father taught him the art of painting, and after his death his uncle, Jan Baptist Weenix, took over. Melchior was very religious and sometimes people wondered what Melchior wanted to be, painter or preacher.

When Melchior went to live with his sister in The Hague after the death of his uncle Jan Baptist in 1659, Melchior became a member of the newly founded Pictura society of painters and of the Saint Lucas guild.
In 1663, Melchior moved to Amsterdam where he married Susanne Tradel. They went to live on Lauriergracht, Prinsengracht and Lijnbaansgracht. In 1686 Melchior buys a farmstead in Vreeland. To escape the bustle of his home (his wife's sisters have also come to live with them), Melchior often spends time outdoors, at the inn and in the garden on Lijnbaansgracht.

Melchior d'Hondecoeter dies on 03 April 1695 in the house of his only daughter Isabel in the Warmoesstraat in Amsterdam and is buried in the Westerkerk. The inheritance left by Melchior was refused by his son-in-law because he thought he had left many debts. However, Melchior left behind no debts, but nearly 50 paintings, including 2 portraits by Michelangelo.

The work of Melchior d'Hondecoeter

Melchior learned the trade from his father, who painted still lifes and paintings of nature. His grandfather also painted these, but they were forest landscapes with animals, while his father focused more on painting the animals themselves. Melchior put the animals in the foreground and by placing railings and other partitions, he added depth to his paintings. Melchior's paintings were also looser, more detailed and more colourful.

When, after the death of his father, Melchior was apprenticed to his uncle, his works became mostly hunting still lifes and Italianate. Later, he focuses on painting poultry and exotic birds. Melchior consciously chose to paint animals, as this was not done very often while it was becoming popular. His works were in keeping with the animal collections, aviaries and menageries of wealthy citizens that were fashionable in the Golden Age. His wall decorations fit in well with this, and Melchior thrived on this. He paints for Willem III, among others. One of these works is Menagerie, dating from c. 1690, which is hung above the door to Willem III's private quarters at 't Loo.

From 1670 onwards, Melchior allows the background to play a greater role and, instead of painting a farmyard, he paints Italian panoramas and buildings.

Among the pupils of Melchior is not only his cousin Jan Weenix but also Adriaen Coorte.

A masterpiece by Melchior d'Hondecoeter on your wall?

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