Jan Brueghel the Elder
- Jan Brueghel the Elder
- The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man
- signed and dated lower left.: ...EGHEL 1613
- oil on copper
- 10ins. by 14 ¾ins.
Acquired with the Camuccini collection by Algernon Percy, 4th Duke of Northumberland (1792–1865) in 1853;
Thence by descent.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Hatton Gallery, Festival of Britain Exhibition, 1951, no. 3.
Manuscript list of the pictures in the Camuccini Gallery and the prices paid, Alnwick Castle DNA:F/76A: Camera Seconda. 3. Brueghel Giov: Paradiso terrestre, nome dell'autore e la data 1613.... £100;
G. F. Waagen, Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain, London 1857, p. 471 (as at Alnwick): A pretty little picture. Signed;
Inventory of effects at Alnwick Castle, April 1865, Sy.H.IX.1.n., p. 61: Eastern Corridor. Brueghel John The Terrestrial Paradise;
Inventory of Pictures at Alnwick Castle, November 1894, Sy.F.XVII.3.a(6): Eastern Corridor. Tapestry Dressing Room. Brueghel, small picture, 'Garden of Eden';
C. H. Collins Baker, Catalogue of the Pictures in the Collection of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland at Syon House, Alnwick Castle, Albury Park and 17 Princes Gate, London 1930, p. 14, no. 52 (as hanging in Alnwick Castle);
K. Ertz and C. Nitze-Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere, vol. II, Lingen 2008–2010, pp. 442–443, cat. no. 189, reproduced.
Brueghel’s paradise landscapes such as this typically presented their subject matter within a Biblical context. Because the story of the Creation provides the Biblical link between God and the natural world, Brueghel’s concentration upon the depiction of so many animals was ideally suited to the narratives of the Book of Genesis, in this case, the Fall of Man. Here Brueghel's landscape depicts the Animal Kingdom in its harmonious state of perfection before the Fall. The viewer is at first drawn to the bewildering array of species, ranging from ostriches, a dromedary, lions and a grey horse on the left, to monkeys, cattle and leopards on the right sides of the foreground, and the eye is drawn in through a variety of birds, including swans, a peacock, heron and duck on either side of a stream into the distance goats and deer roam, and beyond them wander deer and an elephant. All around and above fly a variety of birds, familiar European species mingling with more exotic birds of paradise. And in the distant corner the eye finally alights upon the true subject of the picture, the tiny naked figures of Adam and Eve shown at the moment when they are led by the serpent to partake of the fruit of tree and thus commit the original Sin. The deliberately false insignificance of the key iconographical detail harks back to earlier Mannerist tradition and in particular the work of Jan’s father Pieter Breugel the Elder, but its presence serves to remind the viewer of his primary subject: the natural world as an expression of Divine Creation.
These elements were already in place when Brueghel painted his first paradise landscape, the Creation of Adam (Rome, Galleria Doria Pamphilij) in Rome in 1594, when he was in the service of Cardinal Federico Borromeo (1564–1631).1 The composition (fig. 1) is relatively awkward, with a slightly imbalanced divide between the animals and the birds and fishes, as befits a first essay in this genre. The importance of Borromeo’s patronage and influence, which would become a lifelong friendship with the artist, was to be of crucial importance in the development of Brueghel’s career and of the paradise theme itself. His philosophy provides the religious context within which Jan Brueghel's landscapes of this type would be understood. Nature and its representation in art was to be illustrative of the divine hierarchy, and the magnificence of God perceived through the contemplation of Nature. Borromeo had been particularly influenced by the thought of Filippo Neri (1515–95), the founder of the Oratorian Order, who had stressed the significance of the Creation. For Borromeo the extraordinary variety of all living species was in itself a living reflection of the Divine power of Creation. His posthumous work, I tre libri delle laudi divine (1632) encouraged the worship of God through an appreciation of his creations, and animals in particular.
‘Looking then with attentive study at animals’ construction and formation, and at their parts, and members, and characters, can it not be said how excellently divine wisdom has demonstrated the value of its great works?’
By the summer of 1596 Brueghel had returned to his native Antwerp, and by the time the present copper was painted in 1613, he had evolved a far more assured formula for the paradise theme, with both landscape and animals altogether more confidently placed in relation to each other, and the mastery of detail in their depiction complete. Works on this theme from the intervening period include a copper in the Prado in Madrid, and a circular copper in the Staatsgalerie, Neuburg an der Donau.2 The present panel belongs to a core group of pictures painted between 1612 and 1615 in which Brueghel developed his most successful designs for the Paradise landscapes. The most closely related example of this particular composition is the larger copper today in the Galleria Doria Pamphilij in Rome, which is signed and dated 1612.3 The design is broadly the same as that of the Northumberland copper from the following year, the chief differences being the changing of the positions of Adam and Eve and the greater prominence accorded the horse, dromedary and ostriches on the left of the picture. In addition to these Ertz (see Literature) also records a small (28 x 38 cm.) canvas formerly with William Doyle in New York, which closely follows the present painting, and a larger (60 x 96 cm.) panel last recorded with Goudstikker in Amsterdam, which follows the Doria Pamphilij version. Both are now known only from photographs and their autograph status remains doubtful.4 Two years later, in 1615, Brueghel returned to the theme of the Fall of Man in a copper now in the Royal Collection at Hampton Court, in which the composition is very similar but in reversed format, with the prominent grey horse and the distant figures of Adam and Eve now to be found on the right-hand side of the picture. A close replica in gouache, which Ertz assigns to the hand of Brueghel himself, was with Galerie d'Art Saint Honoré in Paris.5 The year 1615 seems to have marked the high water mark of Jan Brueghel's preoccupation with this Paradise design, for this marks the date of what is surely his largest and greatest work on this subject, the panel of Paradise landscape with the Fall of Man painted in collaboration with Rubens himself, and today in the Mauritshuis in The Hague (fig. 2).6
The enormous step up in quality between the Doria Pamphilij painting of 1594 and the present painting can of course be explained in terms of the progression of Brueghel’s own maturity, but another key factor was the influence of Rubens, with whom he had begun to work from around 1598 onwards. The magnificent grey stallion on the left of the painting, for example, is heavily indebted to Rubens’ development of this type in a number of works, chiefly equestrian portraits, and probably goes back to his studies of a Riding School, (fig. 3) painted around 1609–12 in preparation for his lost equestrian portrait of the Archduke Albert and formerly in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin.7 Similarly, the poses of the two lions beside the horse suggest strongly that Brueghel had first hand knowledge of Rubens’ own first-hand drawn studies of these beasts (London, British Museum and Vienna, Albertina)8 or else his celebrated canvas of Daniel in the Lions’ Den of circa 1612 today in Washington, National Gallery of Art.9 The presence of these animals in the Doria Pamphilij panel of 1612 show that Brueghel was familiar with their design by this date. Again, the two leopards playing on the ground on the right of the painting are also inspired by a Rubensian prototype, the Leopards, nymphs and satyrs now in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.10
Such borrowings from the work of Rubens should not be taken to infer that Brueghel’s animals were entirely derivative, for Brueghel certainly made his own studies after nature for these pictures, although very few have survived. Though none can be specifically linked to this composition, one such made in relation to his Noah and the Animals entering the Ark of 1622, now in the Getty Museum, gives a good indication of their appearance. Pen and brown ink sketches of various animals are also preserved from his visit to the court of the Emperor Rudolf II in Prague in 1604. The ostriches on the left of the picture undoubtedly reflect the result of first hand studies, such as that in pen and ink and watercolour sold New York, Sotheby’s, 20 January 1982, lot 53 (fig. 4). Brueghel’s inscription recording its size (9 voesen hooghe – nine feet high) shows quite clearly that the drawing was the result of direct observation.
As Arianne Faber Kolb has recently suggested, the prominent position occupied in the painting by both horse and lions is a direct reference to, and reflection of, their symbolic nature as royal beasts.11 Their iconographic nature as such was undoubtedly intended as a reflection of the patronage of the Archduke Albert of Austria (1559–1621) and his wife the Infanta Isabella of Spain (1566–1633), for whom Brueghel worked as court painter in Brussels between 1606 and the end of their reign in 1621. Equally importantly, it was at the Archdukes' celebrated menagerie in Brussels (fig. 5) that Brueghel would have been able to study a variety of birds and animals at first hand. From 1599 onwards the Archdukes, following in a tradition that stretched back through the Emperors Rudolf II, Maximilian I and Charles V all the way to Phillip of Burgundy, had remodelled their park to include enclosures for animals and aviaries for exotic birds. Duke Ernst Johan of Saxony, who visited Albert and Isabella in 1613, the year of this painting, described their park as filled with deer and birds, including aviaries with parrots, scarlet macaws, rare pheasants, wild and Indian pigeons, sparrow hawks from Iceland, and many ducks. By the time of the Ommeganck celebrations in Isabella’s honour two years later on 31 May 1615, at least four dromedaries had been added to the collection, and it is possible that Brueghel may have seen these too at first hand. In addition to this, of course, he may have been able to study animals in his native city of Antwerp, whose port was busy with goods from the New World, including many new and exotic species of animal.
We know that Brueghel was granted access to the menageries in Brussels, for in a letter to his earliest patron, Cardinal Federico Borromeo in Rome, written on 5 September 1621 Brueghel wrote of his delight in being able to study nature in preparation for his painting of the Virgin and Child within a garland of flowers (Madrid, Museo del Prado) in which 'the birds and animals were done from the life from several of her Serene Highness's specimens'.12 If Borromeo’s philosophy provided the religious context within which Brueghel’s paradise landscapes would have been understood by his contemporaries, the patronage of the Archdukes was of equal importance, for it connected Brueghel to the contemporary growth and extension of enquiry into the natural world and the classification of its contents. This trend manifested itself not only in the collection of animals in the menagerie of the Archdukes, but also in the appearance of the first scientific collections and the publication of the first natural history catalogues, notably those by Conrad Gesner (1516–65), the Swiss naturalist whose famous ground breaking encyclopaedia, the Historiæ Animalium was printed as early as 1551–58, and the Bolognese scholar Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522–1605) whose Ornithologiæ was published in 1599–1603. These were the first comprehensive works on natural history since Pliny’s Historia Naturalis (A.D. 77), and the first to apply an extensive system of description for each animal. From these sources Brueghel seems to have adopted the idea of grouping the animals together in their basic groups and depicted them correctly in their specific natural habitat. This classifying tendency was strongest in other works closely related to the paradise landscapes, most notably Brueghel’s series of paintings of the Elements and those devoted to the story of the Entry of the Animals into Noah’s Ark, notably for example, those of 1613 in the Getty Museum in California and of 1615 in Apsley House, London. Brueghel was by no means the first artist to treat the theme of the landscape of paradise, nor the first to closely observe wild animals, but his study of the animals in the Archdukes’ menagerie and the growing intellectual background against which such studies were set, gave his paradise landscapes such as this a realism and an accuracy in the depiction of the various species depicted that had never been seen before. Brueghel’s own highly detailed and finished style was ideally suited to this task.
Sadly, the earliest history of this painting is as yet unknown. It entered the Northumberland collections, of course, with the acquisition by the 4th Duke of the inventory of the gallery of the Camuccini brothers in Rome in 1853. The date of its acquisition or purchase by the Camuccini brothers is not known, but it is not impossible that the painting had been in Rome from an earlier date. Brueghel’s first paradise landscape, that in Galleria Doria Pamphilij in Rome is recorded in the collection of Cardinal Camillo Pamphilij (d. 1666) in 1654 and may well have been painted there for Cardinal Federico Borromeo. The other version of this composition, the larger panel in the same collection, is also recorded in the same inventory. Camillo’s letters, as well as subsequent family inventories, suggest that he acquired most of the paintings by Brueghel in the family collection, including a famous set of the Four Elements, painted around 1610–11 and which remain in the family collection to this day.
1. Copper, signed and dated 1594, 26.5 x 35 cm. Reproduced in K. Ertz and C. Nitze-Ertz, under Literature, 2008–10, pp. 432–33, no. 185.
2. Ertz and Nitze-Ertz, op. cit., 2008–10, pp. 434–37, nos. 186 and 187, reproduced.
3. Copper, 50.3 x 80.1 cm., signed and dated 1612, ibid., pp. 440–42, no. 188.
4. Ibid., nos. 190 and 191.
5. Ibid., nos. 192 and 193.
6. P. Van der Ploeg and Q. Buvelot, Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis. A Princely Collection, The Hague 2006, pp. 74–76, reproduced.
7. H. Vlieghe, Rubens Portraits. Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, Part XIX, vol. II, London 1987, p. 36, fig. 4.
8. J. S. Held, Rubens. Selected Drawings, London 1959, vol. I, p. 131, cat. no. 83, and vol. II, Frontispiece and plate 96.
9. Washington, Alicia Mellon Bruce Fund, inv. no. 1965.13-1. Canvas, 224 x 390 cm. For which see M. Jaffé, Rubens. Catalogo completo, Milan 1989, p. 202, no. 289, reproduced.
10. Jaffé, op. cit., 1989, p. 203, no. 289bis, reproduced.
11. A. Faber Kolb, Jan Brueghel the Elder: The Entry of the Animals into Noah's Ark, Getty Museum Studies on Art, Los Angeles 2005.
12. Cited by A. van Suchtelen, in the exhibition catalogue, Rubens and Brueghel. A Working Friendship, Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2006, p. 69, n. 39.