The Dukes of Croÿ, Brussels, probably since the 17th century and thence by family descent to
Karl Rudolf, Duke of Croÿ (1859-1906), who married in 1888, Marie-Ludmilla Princess and Duchess of Arenberg (1870-1953), Chateâu de L'Hermitage, Condé sur L'Escaut, France, until the First World War, and thereafter at Chateâu 'La Solitude', Brussels;
Thence by descent.
The subject was treated by the artist on a number of occasions, with different variations of the composition; for which see, for example, U. Härting, Frans Francken der Jüngere, 1989, pp. 310-11, cat. nos. 279-95. The most closely related of these is a smaller panel (52 by 82 cm.) sold London, Christie's, 28 November 1975, lot 34, in which the right hand side of the composition and the distant landscape differ, although Härting suspects the participation of the Francken workshop in the figures (op. cit., p. 314, no. 295). In his other treatments of the subject Francken also typically introduced an assembly of the gods on the distant shore on the right hand side of the composition, but this is here replaced by a distant column of Neptune's entourage.
The provenance of this painting and others in this sale from the same collections (see lots 2 and 3) is all the more remarkable for having in all probability remained unbroken until the present day. The family of Croÿ was one of the most important in the Southern Netherlands, Burgundy and France in the early 17th century, and successive generations held high office under the rulers of the Spanish Netherlands. As collectors and patrons they were equally important; in the 15th century in Burgundy they amassed an outstanding collection of manuscripts, including works by Simon Marmion and Jean Wauquelin, which were later acquired by Margaret of Austria, then ruler of the Low Countries. Charles III de Croÿ, 1st Duke of Croÿ and 4th Duke of Aarschot and Prince of Chimay (1560-1612), for example, amassed an enormous collection in his chateâux at Heverlee and Beaumont of jewels, coins, precious objects, medals and manuscripts. An inventory drawn up at his death lists a collection of 234 paintings, including no less than eleven works attributed to Veronese. From an early date they were linked by marriage to the Princely family of Arenberg - Philippe-Charles, Prince of Arenberg married Anne of Croÿ, for example, in 1616 - who were among the greatest patrons and collectors of art in the Southern Netherlands in the 18th and 19th centuries. For works which may have partly descended through this line of descent see also lots 2 ,3 and 147 in this sale.
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