Flemish Cabinet Paintings

Jan Brueghel the Elder, Flemish, 1568–1625, 
and Hendrik van Balen, Flemish, c. 1574/75–1632
Abundance with the Four Elements, c. 1615
Oil on panel
24 3/8 x 41 3/8 in. (62 x 105 cm)
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Small, finely executed paintings of allegories and mythological and biblical narratives set into landscapes were a specialty of Flemish painters in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Collected eagerly by patrons in Spain and across Europe, these works present and enhance the variety and beauty of the natural world. Flemish artists typically collaborated on these compositions based on their respective artistic strengths, such as landscapes or figures. Jan Brueghel the Elder was one of the most admired artists of this tradition, and his works, especially those executed on copper, were highly valued by the Spanish royal family. Their intimacy of scale and virtuosity in paint handling encourage close, studied viewing.