Jan van Kessel the Elder

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Jan van Kessel in Cornelis de Bie's Het Gulden Cabinet.

Jan van Kessel (baptized 5 April 1626, Antwerp – 17 April 1679, Antwerp) was a Flemish painter of still lifes and Jan Brueghel the Elder's grandson.


Insects and garden pansy, 1679

Jan van Kessel the Elder was born into a family of artists and was member of the famous Flemish dynasty of painters of the Brueghel family. The painter was the son of Hieronymus van Kessel the Elder and Paschasia Brueghel (the daughter of Jan Brueghel the Elder), thus becoming Jan Brueghel the Elder's grandson.

As a result of being born into this family he received his artistic training through the family members, that were like him all artists. He was a pupil of his older brother Hieronymous van Kessel the younger, and his uncle Jan Brueghel the Younger.[1]

He became a member of the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke in 1644 as "blomschilder" (flower painter).[1] The 17th-century Flemish biographer Cornelis de Bie included van Kessel in his book on Flemish painters called Het Gulden Kabinet.[2] Arnold Houbraken praised him for the neatness of his flower paintings for which he was known during his lifetime.[3]

As part of the Brueghel family, he went on training other painters and also his own family members. His pupils were his sons Jan van Kessel the Younger and Ferdinand van Kessel.[1]

Still Life with fish


Jan van Kessel specialized in small-scale pictures of subjects gleaned from the natural world such as floral still lifes and allegorical series showing animal kingdoms, the four elements, the senses, or the parts of the world. Obsessed with picturesque detail, van Kessel worked from nature and used illustrated scientific texts as sources for filling his pictures with objects represented with almost scientific accuracy.

He painted many animals (especially insects) and flowers, as well as some mythological and biblical scenes. His choice of subject leaned towards those which included animals and plants.[1]

He was influenced by Daniel Seghers and the scientific naturalism of Joris Hoefnagel, particularly Hoefnagel's studies of flowers and insects.[1][4]

There are two paintings by Jan van Kessel in the High Museum of Art in Atlanta ("Butterflies, Caterpillars, and Other Insects").


The Soap Bubbles - Still life by Kessel and Tenniers. The surrounding garland is by Kessel, the centerpiece is attributed to David Teniers the Younger.

Brueghel family tree[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Jan van Kessel (I) at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
  2. ^ Johannes van Kessel, page 409, in Het Gulden Cabinet, 1662
  3. ^ Johannes van Kessel biography in De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (1718) by Arnold Houbraken, courtesy of the Digital library for Dutch literature (Dutch)
  4. ^ Jan van Kessel on Venetian Red

External links[edit]

  • Works at PubHist
  • Vermeer and The Delft School, a full text exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which contains material on Jan van Kessel, senior