food in the arts



KESSEL, Jan van/ ARTISTS 1650-1899/ ART MAIN

film and food

(b. 1626, Antwerpen, d. 1679, Antwerpen)

literature and food 

Flemish still life and flower painter active in Antwerp, where he became a Guild member in 1645. He continued the traditions of his grandfather, Jan "Velvet" Brueghel, and was also influenced by Daniel Seghers. Van Kessel painted garlands and bouquets of flowers, but is best known for small, jewel-like pictures, often on copper, of insects or shells against a light background, executed with strong colour and great exactitude. Good examples of his prolific output are in Oxford (Ashmolean), Cambridge (Fitzwilliam), and Madrid (Prado).

music and food

photography and food

Jan Van Kessel-


Jan Van Kessel



Oil on copper, 41,9 x 76,9 cm
Galleria Doria-Pamphili, Rome

This Flemish artist’s teacher and uncle was Jan Brueghel the Younger, and therefore he was a direct descendant on his mother’s side from Pieter the Elder and Jan the Elder. He painted chiefly still-lifes, frequently representing food laid out sumptuously on light-coloured tables and depicted with the delicacy of a miniaturist, using lively colours of a predominately red tint laid on with the tip of the brush.

The documentary, informative, educational, and communicative function of these richly laid tables, in which the individual objects are simply added on and depicted from a slightly raised viewpoint, is combined with the evident intention of demonstrating the affluence of the wealthy patrons of these works. It is also possible to discern allegorical intentions alluding to the five senses or the four elements, but while such an interpretation is quite plausible, the principal aim is a purely aesthetic one, offering this profusion of beautiful objects, rendered with exquisite skill, as a simple feast for the eyes.

There is a companion piece to this painting, a variation on the same theme, also on show in the Galleria Doria-Pamphili


Still Life with Fruit and Shellfish

Oil on canvas
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence