Skip to main content

April 29 Art Minute: Izaac van Oosten, The Garden of Eden

Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Art Museum, Toledo Museum
Isaak van Oosten (Flemish, 1613-1661) The Garden of Eden. Oil on canvas, 1600s. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1959.1. Gallery 27

The 16th and 17th centuries were a period of intense interest in natural history, spurred by the discoveries of European traders and explorers in Asia, the Americas, and Africa. Many aristocrats and wealthy merchants assembled collections of natural “curiosities” from around the world—including seashells, gems and minerals, flowers, and live or stuffed birds and animals. Nearly all of the creatures in this painting from the 1600s are recognizable as specific species, suggesting that examples were available to artists in the Southern Netherlands, whether in menageries, book and print illustrations, or as taxidermy.

Artist Isaak van Oosten included more than 40 species of birds in this painting, including a Magellanic penguin, mute swans, macaws, a toucan, and an African grey parrot. How many can you find?

This work is currently on view in Gallery 27.