For starters, I know this particular subject matter isn’t for everyone, especially for those who’re wary of of snakes, so thanks for being a such a good sports!
Otto Marseus Van Schrieck was a Dutch Golden Age painter who specialized in flora and fauna still lifes. He’s perhaps best known for his creative biological dioramas, which were often plant studies surrounded by various insects, lizards and snakes. That's right--all the good stuff!
I absolutely love his high-contrast approach to lighting, which actually reminds me of the photography of Minor White. Perhaps to mimic the deep forest habitat of his specimens, Schrieck cast these scenes mostly in dark shadow while rendering his subjects in mid-tones and delicate highlights. Of course these works weren't meant to supply a realistic depiction of how the various critters would interact in nature, and they were probably assorted with some sort of religious allegory in mind, but regardless I love how each item unfolds out of the shadows and is theatrically presented to the viewer in precise scientific detail. Excellent.
Details behind the cut: