42
42

THE PROPERTY OF A FAMILY

Abel Grimmer
THE TOWER OF BABEL
Estimate
120,000180,000
LOT SOLD. 173,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
42

THE PROPERTY OF A FAMILY

Abel Grimmer
THE TOWER OF BABEL
Estimate
120,000180,000
LOT SOLD. 173,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale

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London

Abel Grimmer
ANTWERP CIRCA 1570 - 1618/9
THE TOWER OF BABEL
signed and dated lower centre: ABEL / GRIMER / 1595
oil on oak panel
71.8 by 92.4 cm.; 28 1/4  by 36 3/8  in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Anonymous sale, Frankfurt, Bangel, 17 and 18 May 1904, lot 32 (as attributed to Jan Brueghel the Elder);
Acquired there or shortly after by Professor Friedrich Wilhelm, Freiherr von Bissing, Munich;
Thence by descent.

Literature

C. Kramm, De Levens en Werken der Hollandsche en Vlaamsche Kunstschilders, 1857, vol. I, p. 605;
H. Nasse, in Monatshefte für Kunstwissenschaft, 1912, p. 325, reproduced plate 37;
A. Laes, in Annuaire des Musées des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, 1938, p. 37;
H. Minkowski, Aus der Nebel der Vergangenheit steigt der Turm zi Babel aus 1.000 Jahren, Berlin 1960, p. 61, no. 189;
R. de Bertier de Sauvigny, Jacob et Abel Grimmer, Brussels 1991, p. 189, no. I;
H. Minkowski, Vermutungen über den Turm zu Babel, Freren 1991, pp. 172, 187, no. 257, reproduced p. 186.


Catalogue Note

The subject is taken from the Book of Genesis (II: 1–9) which recounts how the people resolved to 'build a city and a tower, with its top in the Heavens' and appointed Nimrod, 'the mighty warrior before the Lord' to oversee its construction. While earlier sources exist, Pieter Bruegel’s monumental painting of this subject dating from 1563 was the prime source of inspiration for both the popularity of the subject among Flemish painters of the later 16th and early 17th century and their compositions, including that of this picture. While some painters preferred an angular base for the tower, most, including Grimmer, followed Bruegel in basing the entire construction on a spiral. 

Grimmer repeated the present composition with small changes in a smaller work, unsigned and undated, formerly with Galerie De Jonckheere, Brussels, and in two works from 1604, in which the composition is reversed, with Nimrod and his companions in the left foreground.1 The larger of these versions, measuring 51.1 by 66.3 cm., was sold in London, Christie’s, 2 July 2013, lot 28, for £980,000. 

Another version of the present work, in Siena, Palazzo Bonsignori, was published by Minkowski under Jan Brueghel the Elder, but from his small illustration it looks as if it is also attributable to Abel Grimmer.2

Until recently, the date on this painting (see Literature) was read as 1591, which would have made it Grimmer’s earliest dated work.

Infra-red imaging is available via the online catalogue of this sale.

 Note on the provenance.

Friedrich Wilhelm, Freiherr von Bissing (1873-1956) was a noted Egyptologist who became Professor at Munich University in 1901.  He was the grandson  of Otto von Wesendonck, Wagner's backer, and his yioung wife Mathilde, Wagner's close friend, confidante and muse , and thus inherited a  substantial part of the renowned Wesendonck collection.   After his death in 1956, his immense collection of Egypt Art, which to a large extent he had excavated himself, formed a substantial part of the Staatliche Museum Ägyptischer Kunst in Munich.  While the present picture may have appealed to him on account of its subject matter - massive construction in the ancient world - he was more likely influenced by the taste of the Wesendoncks, whose collection included a number of Netherlandish 16th Century landscapes, including the St. Christopher by Jan Wellens de Cock (now known as the Master J. Kock) sold in these Rooms on 8th December 2004, lot 7.

 1 See De Bertier de Sauvigny under Literature, p. 294, no. 1, reproduced

2 See under Literature, 1991, p. 172, no. 202, reproduced. Minkowski there mentions the present work, and lists two further versions, one as Flemish School, the other as Tobias Verhaeght, but does not reproduce them (ibid., p. 215, nos 363 and 364).

Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale

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London