Butterfly, Caterpillar, Moth, Insects, and Currants

Object Details

Title:

Butterfly, Caterpillar, Moth, Insects, and Currants

Artist/Maker(s):

Jan van Kessel II (Flemish, 1626 - 1679)

Culture:

Flemish

Date:

about 1650 - 1655

Medium:

Gouache and brown ink, over underdrawing in metalpoint, on vellum

Dimensions:

13 x 17 cm (5 1/8 x 6 11/16 in.)

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Luminous red and white currants provide perches for various species of insects, while others crawl and hover over the page. Moths, beetles, wasps, flies, a ladybird, and a caterpillar are set in rows. Jan van Kessel I was one of the first artists to create horizontally arranged drawings of fruits and flowers, giving structure to essentially scientific analyses of insects. Instead of a specific setting, he preferred to use a blank ground, which allowed him to arrange the insects and fruits according to shifting yet interconnected vantage points.

Van Kessel probably made this tight drawing in the studio, based on close sketches from nature. He used bodycolor to show volume, as in the luminous, patterned wings of the moths. Transparent washes represent the light effects, cast from a light source that creates dark shadows along the right sides of wings and underneath the insect's bodies, lifting them from the ground. Van Kessel assembled these insects to emphasize each specimen's crisp shapes and markings.

Exhibitions
Flemish Drawings of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (August 29 to November 12, 1995)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), August 29 to November 12, 1995
Art and Science: Joris Hoefnagel and the Representation of Nature in the Renaissance (October 12, 1999 to January 9, 2000)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles)
Picturing the Natural World (June 17 to September 7, 2003)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), June 17 to September 7, 2003
Maria Sibylla Merian & Daughters: Women of Art and Science (February 23 to August 31, 2008)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), June 10 to August 31, 2008
Drawing Life: The Dutch Visual Tradition (November 24, 2009 to February 28, 2010)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), November 24, 2009 to February 28, 2010