Vrancx himself produced sets of the months and, with the present set, appears to have taken four of his compositions from such a series and re-combined them to successfully constitute a set representing the Four Seasons. The winter composition, of which there are several known versions, is usually thought to depict the month of January.2 However, the figure of the small girl seen from behind at center left carries a duivekater-brood under her arm, a bread traditionally baked between 6 December (Sinterklaas) and 6 January (Epiphany), thus denoting the possibility that the painting is meant to depict the two months of December and January. The farm scene in which the trees are not yet fully in leaf and a peasant is shown with a calf would seem to represent one of the spring months such as April or May; the more lush landscape with a peasant woman at right selling ripe cherries to a boy most likely represents one of the summer months of June or July; and the landscape with peasants harvesting wheat would likely depict August or September.
Other compositions by Vrancx that appear to be related to this group, on same size panels and with similar formats depicting large-scaled figures in the foreground set against expansive landscapes, are the Month of September (Budapest, Museum of Fine Arts, INv. 6519); Spring landscape [Month of March] (Sale, Vienna, Dorotheum, 3 March 1996, lot 94); and Landscape with grape harvest (Sale, London, Sotheby’s, 12 December 2002, lot 11).
1. For a discussion of this subject, see H.J. van Miegroet, "'The Twelve Months' Reconsidered: How a Drawing by Pieter Stevens Clarifies a Bruegel Enigma,” in Simiolus, Vol. 16, No. 1 (1986), pp. 29-35.
2. Another version of the winter scene (January) is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest (Inv. no. 8242); two other versions sold recently at auctions, one Paris, Tajan, 22 June 2009, lot 7 ($207,973) and the other at Amsterdam, Christie’s. 13 October 2009, lot 37 ($143,360).
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