Animal and plant painting
As early as in the 17th century, some painters specialised in creating representations of plants and animals. These painters performed unassisted floral and animal compositions, or, much like still lifes specialists, were employed as assistants by painters specialising in historical painting (i.e. historical, religious and mythological). This type of cooperation was practised, for instance, in the workshop of Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640). In the great compositions of the famous Antwerpian painter, one can distinguish the hand of other well-known artists of his time. Animals in Rubens’ mythological and hunting scenes were often painted by Frans Snyders (1579–1657), flowers (in religious paintings or as an element of still lifes in portraits) by Jan Brueghel the Elder called Velvet (1568–1625), son of the famous Flemish artist Pieter Breugel the Elder (d. 1569).
Together with the development of European graphics, engravings also appeared which constituted illustrations of zoological, botanical and pharmaceutical dissertations. In addition, the blossoming of the seventeenth century flower trade in the Netherlands created a demand for copperplate engravings depicting flowers. These were used as catalogues and advertisements, but they were also collected and even used by artists as templates for floral motifs used to create painting compositions.
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