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).
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