Life as it passed before the artist’s eyes has been depicted in a serial manner in a range of works from antiquity onwards, from Egyptian tomb scenes to the endless cavalcade of Phidias’s youthful riders on the Parthenon frieze and the predellas of altarpieces. In the 17th century the diff erent facets of a single entity were represented using this fragmentary, cinematic approach: by Murillo in his moralising preparatory sketches for The Prodigal Son and by Teniers in the story of Rinaldo and Armida recounted in Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata (1580), a work that inspired artists, musicians and writers through its combination of magic, power and love in an exotic setting. In another example in the next room, Van Kessel brings together the four parts of the world in 68 tiny scenes of which 39 now survive. They illustrate the animal kingdom, cities and landscapes of the four known continents in the 17th century and deploy the characteristically all-encompassing viewpoint of the age in a candid expression of the European sense of domination. An interest in scientifi c classifi cation began to prevail, and was also applied to psychology, refl ected by Descartes, who spent part of his life in Holland, in his Treaty on the Passions of the Soul (1649). Teniers summarised these passions in his monkeys, off ering a satirical “portrait” of men and women’s activities. The painter monkey, for example, devotes his energies to the production of highly prized, small cabinet paintings. In contrast, the Archduke Leopold hung large-scale masterpieces in his palace as a permanent testament to the taste and prestige created by royalty and the aristocracy.

 
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