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Birds have long been a source of artistic inspiration.

Melchior de Hondecoeter (Utrecht 1636-Amsterdam 1695)

Birds and a Spaniel in a Garden c.1660-95

RCIN 405354

Picture Gallery, Buckingham Palace

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Seventeenth-century Dutch artist Melchior de Hondecoeter specialised in painting birds of all types, domestic and wild. His paintings are full of action, and he perceptively captures his avian subjects in moments of excited movement, wing-flapping or grain-scavenging. Here a hen and her chicks mingle with a crowned crane, a hoopoe and a cassowary – with peacocks pacing around the garden beyond. By adopting a low viewpoint for this painting, de Hondecoeter places us at the level of these birds, and indeed the frenzied spaniel seems to be barking directly at us!