Publication Date

Spring 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art and Art History


Anne Simonson


Animal imagery, Collections, Economic History, Natural History

Subject Areas

Art history; European history


Images of animals were produced in abundance in the Low Countries during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Animals appeared in prints, the pages of natural history catalogs, and the backgrounds of paintings, eventually emerging in their own right as a primary subject in painting. This thesis begins by examining the economic circumstances that converged in sixteenth-century Antwerp to give way to this development. It then traces the legacy of the animal genre in the seventeenth century through five fish landscape paintings that Antwerp painter Jan van Kessel I (1626-1679) completed in the 1660s. This study argues that van Kessel redefined the traditional ways in which animals were depicted, adopting techniques from the seventeenth-century painting methods of presenting the human body. Furthermore, as van Kessel’s animal paintings were done on small-format copper or wood panels and sold in multiples, this thesis investigates how van Kessel arranged his now disassembled serial paintings.