Abraham Bisschop and the Birds of Paradise

All Hail the King Bird of Paradise

Bronwen Scott

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Ceiling piece with birds (1708) by Abraham Bisschop — Dordrechts Museum, Public Domain. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ceiling_piece_with_birds,_by_Abraham_Busschop.jpg

One of the delights of writing on Medium is the opportunity to ramble down unmarked paths. And ramble I do. While writing my piece about Frans Snyder and the Fire Salamander, I was intrigued by Snyders’ inclusion of a Greater Bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea apoda) in several paintings. Many artists before Snyders had also painted these beautiful birds, usually in poses that suggested they worked from preserved skins.

Then while idly looking at other portrayals of exotic birds by Dutch and Flemish artists of the 17th and early 18th century, I noticed that a painting by Abraham Bisschop (1670–1729) was different. Bisschop (also Busschop) was a Dutch artist who specialised in birds. Although little known now, he was recognised at the time. A contemporary, artist and author Arnold Houbraken (1660–1719), wrote of him:

Hy begaf zig tot het schilderen van allerhande vogelen… daar hy thans door byzonderen vlyt, in gestadig zig naar ‘t leven te oeffenen, in gevorderd is, dat men hem wel onder de bekwaamste in die oeffening stellen mag.

He started painting all kinds of birds…due to his special skill, he has now reached the point where he can be considered among the most skilled in that practice.

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Bronwen Scott

Zoologist, writer, artist, museum fan, enjoying life in the tropical rainforest of Far North Queensland. She/her. Website: bronwenscott.com