Tag Archives: Flemish grotesque

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.