Advanced Search

Creation of the Birds and Fishes

Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion

Creation of the Birds and Fishes

Artist: Jan van Kessel, attributed (Flemish, 1626–1679)
Culture: Flemish
Date: c. 1650
Medium: Oil on copper
Dimensions:
9 3/4 x 7 inches (24.8 x 17.8 cm)
Classification: Painting
Credit Line: Gift in honor of Marilyn M. Segal by her children
Label Text:This painting presents an image of God in the primordial world. Based on its size, subject and material, it is possible that the Creation of the Birds and Fishes was one of a series illustrating scenes of the Creation in the Genesis, a popular theme among European artists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Given its small scale, the series most likely formed part of the decoration of a collector's Kunstkammer or Wunderkammer-- a room that housed collections of art and other exotic and rare items. Van Kessel's interpretation of the scene includes some zoologically correct birds and fish and some imagined ones, formulated with artistic license from pieces and parts of known species. In attempting to create an image of a primordial world, he was likely inspired by the exotic flora, fauna and zoological species brought to the Netherlands from the recently-explored Americas. It was believed that the Garden of Eden and the world at the moment of Creation must have been like the untouched natural terrain of the New World.


Provenance: Purchased December 17, 1969 through (Parke-Bernet, lot 47) by Muriel and Noah L. Butkin. Butkin Collection, Cleveland State University. Richard D. Segal; gift 1998 to Duke University Museum of Art, now Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
Object number: 1998.22.5