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Air is represented here by a figure of Astronomy with her orrery (a device to indicate the movement and relative position of planets) and flocks of exotic birds, including the now extinct Dodo.
Many versions of sets of allegorical depictions of the four elements came out of the Brueghels' Antwerp studio in the early seventeenth century. The sets were popular in Italy, particularly with their patron Cardinal Federico Borromeo (1564–1631), Archbishop of Milan and founder of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, and his assistant Ercole Bianchi. In Spain, Philip IV distributed sets among the ladies of the court. They evolved from an individual piece showing all the elements together in a unified scene (each bearing appropriate attributes and including a profusion of botanical and zoological detail) to four separate works.
oil on copper
H 49.5 x W 66 cm
gift from Sir Henry Hugh Arthur Hoare along with the estate, house and its contents, 1946