Jan van Kessel

Still Life of Flowers and Grapes encircling a Monstrance in a Niche (About 1670)

About this artwork

This composition shows a cornucopia of grapes, maize, and flowers surrounding a stone niche enclosing a monstrance. Catholicism was the predominant faith in the Southern Netherlands during Van Kessel’s life, and this painting is related to a central facet of the faith, the Eucharist. A monstrance is an ornate container that is sometimes used to display the Eucharist (symbolic bread and wine) in Catholic worship. The ears of wheat and the inscription ECCE PANE AENG on the niche (‘Behold the Bread of Angels’) refer to the bread that is used to represent Christ’s body during Mass. The grapes around the niche allude to the Communion wine that stands for Christ’s blood. Van Kessel also included some small insects, including butterflies, which symbolise the resurrected human soul.

Jan van Kessel

Jan van Kessel

Jan van Kessel was one of the finest Flemish still-life painters of the seventeenth century. He first trained with his father, who collaborated with the famous artist Jan Brueghel the Elder. His father married Brueghel’s daughter, and when their son Jan grew up, he studied with his uncle, Jan Brueghel the Younger. Bolstered by his strong artistic pedigree, Jan became a successful painter, mainly of small scale pictures of flowers, fruit, vegetables and insects on copper. He often collaborated with other artists, and would paint flower garlands and decorative borders around paintings by artists such as David Teniers and Willem van Herp. He died in 1679 in severe debt, leaving thirteen children.

Related products