Disney has got nothing on this adorable painting. It is actually a small detail from ‘The Fall of Man’, by Dutch painter Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem, and was painted in 1592. The painting which is very large, 273cm × w 220cm, has a lot going on. On the surface of it you’ve got the didactic biblical story. But in the details there are the most wonderful renderings of animals. Not exactly anthropomorphized, they are nevertheless imbued with intelligence and empathy, as well as highly realistic detail. At the time it was not uncommon for well to do people to keep monkeys as pets so van Haarlem probably saw them from time to time and perhaps even had one as a model. Cats of course were and are common, and don’t forget to notice the lovely dog off to the side and the little frog as well! There’s also a slug, which you can see below in the main picture. Evidently van Haarelm wanted to point out that all manner of creatures were there in Paradise even the slug! No salt-cellar in evidence.
Paintings of animals have always been popular. David Teniers’s famous Smoking and drinking monkeys is one of the best; the Victorians took this to new heights, with many popular paintings and prints of animals though these are often anthropomorphized. But almost every culture has taken great pleasure in depicting animals.
It did not take Walt Disney long to realise that animated, cute animals would have tremendous, long lasting appeal. By 1940’s Fantasia Disney introduced the idea of a whole film being characterised by animals. In 1941 and 1942 he produced two of his best and most long-lasting favourites – Bambi and Dumbo. Today animals in art continue to be our favorite. Who doesn’t like The Secret Life of Pets? It’s the DVD i put on when i feel a bit down or stressed or generally need a pick me up! I watch it on the sofa while cuddling the dog!
The original painting:
At the #rijksmuseum in Amsterdam