Air

Jan van Kessel

Flemish, 1626 - 1679

Air, ca. 1647

  • On View

Oil on copper

Dimensions: 30 × 39 in. (76.2 × 99.1 cm)

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William L. Richards through the Viola E. Bray Charitable Trust Fund, 1965.33

While it has been reported that Jan van Kessel worked directly from nature, it is also known that he consulted illustrative scientific texts. Together, these facts account for the strikingly accurate rendering of the atmospheric conditions and creatures of flight depicted in Air, an allegory representing one of the four elements of matter (earth, fire, and water are the remaining three). In the center of the painting, Apollo drives his chariot across the sky, while Urania, the muse of astronomy, sits on a cloud and holds a celestial globe. These elements are all contained within a landscape characterized by a dark and stormy sky on the left that brightens and recedes over a vast expanse of trees and mountains on the right.

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