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Allegory of Europe by Jan van Kessel the Elder

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Allegory of Europe by Jan van Kessel the Elder

- Item No.

Europa sits amongst her cabinet of curiosities in this allegorical painting by Jan van Kessel

Key Features

  • An incredible 17th-Century Flemish painting by Jan van Kessel the Elder
  • Entitled Allegory of Europe, Europa is surrounded by symbols of the continent's superiority
  • The composition is that of a gallery painting, detailing a cabinet of curiosities
  • Van Kessel is the grandson of Jan Brueghel the Elder and painted in the Court of Spain
  • He learned directly from his father, van Kessel the Elder
  • Oil on copper; Signed LV Kessel 1670
  • Panel: 19 1/2 high x 27 wide; Frame: 28 1/2 high x 36 wide

Item Details

  • Width:
    P:27; F:36 Inches
  • Height:
    P:19 1/2; F:28 3/8 Inches
  • Period:
  • Origin:
  • Subject:
Jan van Kessel The Elder
1626-1679  Flemish 

Allegory of Europe

Oil on copper panel attached to cradle
Signed "LV Kessel 1670"

Serving as an idealization of Europe's superiority in the world, Flemish artist Jan van Kessel the Younger composes an intricate and masterfully executed painting entitled Allegory of Europe. The grandson of the famed Jan Brueghel the Elder, Kessel's work falls within the paradigm of Flemish Baroque painting that flourished in the city of Antwerp in the 17th century. Filled with immense detailing and rich symbolism, the artist presents a figure of the goddess Europa surrounded by representations of warfare, art, science and aristocracy. The composition is in line with the genre known as Gallery Painting, in which private collections of rare and exotic objects, or "cabinets of curiosities," were chronicled as symbols of artistic and worldly wealth and knowledge. 

This colorful allegory is closely related to one that van Kessel painted just a few years early as part of a series on the four regions of the world. Paintings of this type were incredibly popular at the time, as expeditions of the 16th century established new geographical images of the world and the continents. Allegorical images of terrestrial lands were illustrated in an almost encyclopedic fashion, and also served to establish Europe's superiority over the other continents.

Jan van Kessel was a member of the famous Flemish dynasty of painters, the Brueghel family. A pupil of his famous uncle, Jan Bruegel the Younger, van Kessel painted within the artistic tradition of his grandfather Jan Brueghel the Elder throughout his career. Praised for the realism and neatness of his botanical subjects, van Kessel became a member of the Antwerp art guild as a flower painter in 1644. Best remembered for his intricately detailed floral scenes and allegorical series, van Kessel's oeuvre is regarded as among the finest of the great Flemish artists. 

This work is featured in the book The Collector's Cabinet: Flemish Paintings from New England Private Collections by T. Freudenheim, 1983.

Panel: 19 1/2" high x 27" wide
Frame: 28 1/2" high x 36" wide

Select Artist's Museums:
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, Spain
Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

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Price: $985,000
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