Tag Archives: composite

Jan van Kessel and the Flemish fantastique and grotesque



I hail from Flanders so I’m biased when I say I love Flemish art, and equally biased when I say I love the Flemish fantastique and grotesque.

It’s not every day I find something new and yesterday my eye caught the wonderful Shells, Butterflies, Flowers and Insects on White Background [image] by Jan van Kessel, senior (Antwerp, 1626 – idem, 1679).

Van Kessel senior, born in Antwerp, hometown of Rubens, where I have lived since 1987.

Furthering my research today, I find Festoon, Masks and Rosettes Made of Shells (1656) by that same Jan van Kessel. It is a “decorative and anthropomorphic composition with shells[1].

Not a classic composition as a matter of fact, more a composite of small composites actually, in the vein of those of Arcimboldo, king of composites.

The detail is reminiscent of one of the grotesque masks [image] by Joris Hoefnagel produced a hundred years earlier.

Van Kessel’s work is a species of early intermedia, located in the no man’s land between natural history illustration and fine art.

On display?

Trojan Horse (1700) by Arcimboldo, in the collection of National Portrait Gallery (Sweden)

In 2005  Il Giornale Nuovo[1] reported that the above painting was lost, someone even offered 500 USD for information on its whereabouts.

Last week, I bought the book Les Tentations de Bosch ou L’éternel retour. On page 111 it states that the painting is located in Sweden’s National Portrait Gallery.

Is the painting on display there?

Anyone?