PROPERTY FROM THE COPPÉE COLLECTION
Her sale, Antwerp, van Herck, 15 – 20 May 1922, lot 138;
Acquired at the above sale by Baron Coppée;
Thence by descent.
Brussels, Exposition d'Art Ancien, Noël dans l'art ancien, 18 December 1941 – 6 January 1942, no. 42;
Tokyo, Tobu Museum of Art, The World of Bruegel. The Coppée Collection and Eleven International Museums, 29 March – 25 June 1995, no. B42 (as by Jan Brueghel the Younger).
Count d'Arschot, Secours d'hiver, December 1942, reproduced in colour (according to Hairs, 1985, see below);
M. L. Hairs, Les peintres flamands de fleurs au XVIIe siècle, Paris & Brussels 1955, p. 73;
K. Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere (1568–1625). Die Gemalde mit kritischem Oeuvre Katalog, Cologne 1979, pp. 316, 318, 616 and reproduced fig. 389 (as by Jan Brueghel the Younger);
K. Ertz, Jan Brueghel the Younger (1601–1678). The Paintings with Oeuvre Catalogue, Freren 1984, p. 471, cat. no. 303;
M. L. Hairs, Les peintres flamands de fleurs au XVIIe siècle, Brussels 1985, pp. 110 and 465;
S. Leclercq et al., La Collection Coppée, Liège 1991, pp. 85–87, reproduced;
M. Wilmotte, in the catalogue of the exhibition The World of Bruegel. The Coppée Collection and Eleven International Museums, Tokyo 1995, pp. 140–43, no. B35, reproduced;
B. Werche, Hendrick van Balen (1575–1632), vol. I, p. 150, no. A 42, reproduced vol. II, p. 345.
The earliest of these flower garlands is probably that painted by Jan Brueghel the Elder in 1607/8 for Cardinal Borromeo in Milan, and today in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana.2 The present compositional type, with its distinctive U-shaped garland, seems to have been developed around 1617–18, and the protoype by Jan Brueghel the Elder is probably that today in the Mauritshuis in The Hague (fig. 1).3 Its success is attested to by the existence of around a dozen versions by Jan Brueghel, father and son. The Coppée painting, which is remarkably painted upon a single panel, is dated by Ertz to around 1630. It is most closely related to another Holy Family within a garland held by angels sold Amsterdam, Sotheby's, 9 May 1995, lot 42, which Klaus Ertz suggests may be a collaboration of around 1619–20 between Jan Brueghel the Elder, his son and Hendrick van Balen.4 Both may look back to the Holy Family within a garland of around 1619 by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Van Balen, today in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond (USA), in which the figure of Saint Anne replaces that of Saint Joseph, and where some angels differ.5 The continuing popularity of the composition is attested to by the fact that Jan Brueghel the Younger re-used the garland in his Holy Family with John the Baptist and Angels in Antwerp, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, in which the figures are probably the work of Pieter von Avont, and again in a Garland enclosing an offering to Cybele in the Prado in Madrid. Both of these are later works, probably dating to the 1630s.
Although it may seem at first overwhelmed by the teeming detail of the still life elements, as Leclercq observes, this painting successfully preserves its spiritual aspect. The iconography undoubtedly springs from the concept of the fertility of nature as a gift of divine munificence. As Cardinal Borromeo himself wrote, the fruits of the earth '...make known to us the great wisdom and exquisiteness of Divine Providence, surely their abundance and very great variety will be able to lead us to see the liberality and generous heart of this so magnanimous and so splendid a donor'.6 By the 1640s, however, this type of devotional garland had started to be replaced by the more austere festooned cartouches painted by the Jesuit Daniel Seghers (1590–1661) and his followers.
In her catalogue raisonné of Hendrick van Balen's paintings, Bettina Werche dates the Coppée picture between 1625 and 1632 (and the Richmond, Virginia painting circa 1617–25).7
This beautifully preserved work is painted on an unusually large single plank panel made of oak of a type found in the Netherlands or adjacent parts of Germany. Because of its large size, and because it is not oak from the Baltic region more usually used to make panel supports for which comprehensive sets of tree-ring data are available, dating of the present panel by dendrochronology is not possible.
1. S. Segal, A fruitful past, Amsterdam and Brunswick 1983, p.60. The count is based upon the garland in the compositonal protoype by Jan Brueghel the Elder in the Mauritshuis, in The Hague.
2. K. Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere, Cologne 1979, pp. 302, 589, cat. no. 187, reproduced fig. 377.
3. H. R. Hoetink ed., The Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, New York and The Hague 1985, p.154, cat. no. 18, reproduced.
4. K. Ertz and C. Nitze-Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere. Die Gemälde, vol. III, Lingen 2008–10, p. 1017, cat. no. 483, reproduced.
5. Ibid, p. 1017, cat. no. 482, reproduced.
6. I tre libri delle laudi divine, Milan 1632, p. 158. Cited by P. Jones, Federico Borromeo and the Ambrosiana: art patronage and reform in seventeenth-century Milan, Cambridge, 1993, p. 86.
7. See under Literature, where the Richmond, Virginia picture is in vol. I, p. 150, no. A 41, reproduced vol. II, p. 344. She notes that a copy after the figures in the Coppée painting is to be found in a painting sold in Amsterdam, Christie's, 26 April 1983, lot 174.
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