'Study of an angler fish' Late 16th or early 17th century

Anonymous, Italian school

Bodycolour and white lead, 16.8 x 19cm

This is a study of an angler fish (Lophius piscatorius), commonly found in the Mediterranean. It is typical of the detailed and colourful studies of plants and animals often produced at courts and universities of late 16th century Italy. At this time there was a growth of interest in the scientific study of the natural world.

This piece is unusual amongst the many thousands of works made during this time because of its lively and dramatic character. The shadows, white touches on the fins, whipping posture and gaping mouth all create a life-like image. Other images of such fish held in the Uffizi in Florence show them in flat profile. This work is much more of a 'portrait' of a fish, shown swimming out of the page towards the viewer.

Purchased with the help of the Art Fund and National Heritage Memorial Fund.