Collection Online

The poultry yard
(late 17th century)

oil on canvas
148.2 × 170.3 cm
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1920
Gallery location
17th Century & Flemish Paintings Gallery
Level 2, NGV International

Nicknamed the ‘Raphael of birds’, Melchior d’Hondecoeter was the best-known bird painter of seventeenth-century Holland. His exotic menagerie scenes were much admired, but his most popular paintings were of domestic poultry yards, subtly overlaid with moralistic narratives. In this scene, ducks and chickens coexist in Arcadian harmony, but the peace has been suddenly shattered and panic is setting in. The cause is their sighting of a broken jug handle lying ‘innocently’ in the foreground. This item appears to be an improvised tool used in the killing of table birds, and it appears as a memento mori element in many poultry scenes.

Frame: English, 1920