The introduction to the exhibition is a painting by Melchior d’Hondecoeter, a loan from elaborate collection the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp. The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp is currently undergoing major renovation, which will take until the end of 2017.
The painting is presented next to a tableau with 23 stuffed birds from the collection of the Koninklijk Belgisch Instituut voor Natuurwetenschappen (KBIN – Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences) in Brussels.
The birds on the painting and on the tableau are widely varied. Their feathers have various functions and bring different connotations to mind: the peacock and the owl each have very different types of feathers and people associate them with completely different characteristics.
A large duck at the centre of this painting dominates the entire scene. It appears to be an exceptionally large Old Dutch Tufted Duck. This type of duck is sometimes also referred to as a Red-crested Pochard or King’s duck as this particular species was favoured to inhabit the beautiful palace ponds. The completely white version in particular, seen here swimming up with its offspring, was highly favoured. On the bank you can see a Common Shelduck coming to take a look with other ducks nearby. At the left in a tree one can see a magpie a pigeon flying around at the top. Although these are not exotic species, the birds are associated with luxury and a refined lifestyle.