The Coronation of the King of the Birds signed with initials and dated 'I.V.K. F. Ao. 1667' (lower right) oil on canvas 107.6 x 203cm (42 3/8 x 79 15/16in).
PROVENANCE: Acquired by a noble European family in the eighteenth century and thence by descent to the present owner.
The present canvas is one of the artist's rare large scale creations. Van Kessel painted a smaller version of this composition, on copper, 24 x 34 cm., signed and dated 'I V Kessel A 1654' (René Schreuder Collection, Amsterdam). The graphic work of Johan Sadeler, who published a series devoted to The Creation and Early History of Men, is said to have served as the source for the subject.
Jan van Kessel II was the most versatile and accomplished of a large family of Flemish artists. Trained by Simon de Vos, his uncles included two further eminent Antwerp painters: Jan Brueghel II and David Teniers II, with whom he was to collaborate. The present composition shows the artist's fascination with the exotic. His accurate technique by which he filled his scenes with every object depicted with almost scientific precision owed much to the fact that he is known to have made regular use of illustrated scientific texts. According to Jacob Weyermann, who was the pupil of one of the artist's sons, Ferdinand, Jan also frequently worked from nature.