"This study uses Van Kessel's art as a distinctive lens through which to examine the relationship between craft, curiosity, and the pursuit of natural knowledge in the early modern period. Each chapter situates Van Kessel within a particular context where art and natural history intersected in late seventeenth-century Antwerp. Taken together, these investigations reveal how his production responded to a unique convergence of circumstances in that city which included the growth of a popular, commercial strand of natural history, a thriving culture of art collecting and connoisseurship focused on local artists, and a burgeoning luxury industry. Van Kessel's material and conceptual interventions into the representation of nature, such as his innovative, painted 'cabinets without drawers' and witty signatures formed from insects and snakes, enabled him to redefine the scope of natural historical illustration and negotiate the value and status of the small-format cabinet picture." --
Fashioning flowers and fame in Antwerp -- Curiosities on copper: Van Kessel's simulated insects -- The Four Parts of the World: pictures of/as collections -- Meaning in materials: cabinets without drawers and painted tapestries
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