The University of Arizona Museum of Art and Archive of Visual Arts

ART/WRITE – Abraham Mignon and Jacob Gillig

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Abraham Mignon (German 1640-1679)

Jacob Gillig (Dutch 1636-1701)

Gillig, Jakob, Still Life of Fish and Tackle, c. 1670
Museum Purchase with Funds Provided By the Edward J. Gallagher, Jr. Memorial Fund
Oil on canvas, 29 4/5″ x 24 2/5″

1. Biography

Abraham Mignon was born in Frankfurt, Germany but moved with his parents to the Netherlands in 1679 where he was left in the care of the still-life painter Jacob Marell. Both Marell and Mignon later moved to Utrecht where the young pupil would find another master to train under, the still-life painter Jan Davidsz de Heem. Mignon closely followed Heem’s flower and fruit paintings in subject and style, rendering the same brilliant colors, fine details and opulent compositions. His paintings were popular in the European courts with the Elector of Saxony and King Louis XIV both purchasing works from Mignon. In 1675 he married Maria Willaerts who came from a well-known family of marine painters. The artist worked in Utrecht until his death in 1679.

Jacob Gillig was born in the Netherland city of Utrecht and most likely studied and lived in that city from a very early age until his death in 1701. In 1661 he married Hester Willaerts, who was also related to Mignon by marriage. Gillig worked as a merchant and as a prison warden before he took up painting, specializing in still-life compositions of fish. Gillig is regarded as one of the finest painters of fish from the Dutch school in the seventeenth century.

This painting, Still Life of Fish and Tackle (c. 1670) is a collaborative work between the two gifted still-life painters, combining the refined detail of Mignon’s flower paintings with the pyramidal compositions typical of Gillig’s fish paintings. Fish symbolize the Dutch marine culture and its economic possibilities because of the easy access to the sea. Flower still-lifes were also quite common in the seventeenth century and Still Life of Fish and Tackle’s abundant, delicately detailed, brilliantly lit display of fish could possibly be compared to floral still-lifes of the period.


Abraham Mignon. (n.d.). Retrieved March 12, 2013, from http://www.smk.dk/en/explore-the-art/visit-the-conservator/stories-from-the-conservators/abraham-mignon/

BBC – Your Paintings – Still Life of Fish. (n.d.). Retrieved March 12, 2013, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/still-life-of-fish-142039

2. History

Seventeenth century Dutch art is influenced by several factors, mainly economics and politics. The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) dissolved the united Catholic Europe, ending with a strict geological division between the Protestant Church in Northern Europe and the Roman Catholic Church still the major influence in Italy and Spain. With easy access to the sea and therefore trade routes, the Dutch were able to establish valuable commercial outposts at key areas across the world. This economic advantage created a middle class, and, more importantly for artists, a new patron for the arts.

This new art market meant that The Church and nobility were no longer the sole patrons commissioning works. The new mercantile middle class wanted images of themselves and their possessions so with these new patrons also came new subjects for pictures. From still-lifes of flowers, rich banquet settings, to legal documentation of weddings, the Dutch commissioned pictures of a range of subjects. New patrons also created greater competition between artists with some becoming specialists in one area, creating expert painters of asparagus, flowers, fish, or glassmaking still-life paintings a specialty that flourished in the Netherlands during the 1600’s.

The rise of the still-life reflects the growing urbanization of Dutch society in the seventeenth century, with an increased emphasis on the domestic as well as personal possessions. For the wealthy merchant patron, a flower painting represented part of a rich domestic lifestyle that also included a garden with rare specimens, which could often cost more than the paintings of them. A banquet still-life with expensive foods like shellfish and lemons, or hunting trophies of fowl connoted wealth and privilege. Viewers of these works would either be familiar with this lifestyle or would wish to be identified with it.


Walter Liedtke, D. of E. P. (n.d.). Still-Life Painting in Northern Europe, 1600–1800 | Thematic  Essay |     Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Retrieved March 11, 2013, from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/nstl/hd_nstl.htm

3. Writing Exercises

Writing Exercises

Writing #1

Looking Poem

Create a poem for the painting using the following structure:

Line one- One word or short phrase that comes to mind when you look at the image (don’t think, just write)
Line two- Write an action phrase based on what you see
Line three- Create a simile, a phrase using the word “like” for the image
Line four- Give the image another short word or phrase

Share poems with the class. What were some common words that were used? Note creative descriptive words that were used.

Writing #2

Describe to Persuade

List five colors you see.
List five textures you see.
List five shapes you see.
List five objects you see.
List five more details you see that no one else might notice.

Describe each word on your list with one adjective. (Example, “Brown” becomes “Dirty brown”)

Using the descriptive word list you have created, write a detailed description of the painting by Gillig and Mignon for an art catalog. You want buyers to purchase this work, but they cannot see it. Describe it so that they not only can see the painting in their mind but also would like to buy the work of art.