KESSEL, Jan van, I
(b. 1626, Antwerpen, d. 1679, Antwerpen)

Study of Butterflies and Other Insects with a Sprig of Apple Blossom

Oil on copper, 12 x 18 cm
Private collection

Jan van Kessel's intimate cabinet paintings, which manage to combine an intense observation of natural history with an attractive design, have always been among the most prized of his works. He started painting them in the first half of the 1650s, and continued painting these subjects well into the 1660s. The majority of them were painted on copper, the smooth surface of which was better suited to his meticulous and detailed finish. Many are purely studies of insects, but these are sometimes, as here, combined with studies of flowers or branches of fruit, and occasionally shells.

These tiny coppers most probably originally formed part of a series of plates for a small cabinet, in which a collector would have kept his natural specimens as well as other curiosities in small drawers.

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