(b. 1619/20, Nijmegen, d. 1678, Amsterdam)

Still-Life with Insects and Amphibians

Oil on canvas, 50,7 x 68,5 cm
Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig

Among the Dutch still-life painters Otto Marseus van Schrieck has a special position. His somewhat exotic oeuvre has only come to be appreciated in more recent decades. He nearly always presents a small section of the woods with thick dark undergrowth, and a hidden microcosm in which frogs, toads, snakes and lizards crowd together, fighting for their lives. Marseus van Schrieck knew the habits of these animals very well and is known to have bred reptiles and snakes himself. This painting also shows bizarre botanical species, such as a coral fungus on the left and thistles, under which a lizard - a so-called lacerta - is hiding, about to attack the toad.

Marseus van Schrieck has designed an idealized habitat, modelled on biological dioramas, which are illustrations with a three-dimensional effect. However, although the world of his paintings reflects the zoological and botanical interests of a well-versed science amateur, it is still not free from religious associations. Indeed, it is the religious meaning which determines the selection and composition of the animals and plants. The snake, the toad and the lizard are the 'unclean animals', the serpent had negative connotations and was regarded as an incarnation of evil, and such, was a favourite subject for depicting evil.