Sir Peter Paul Rubens Jan Breughel the Younger Siegen 1577 - 1640 Antwerp Antwerp 1601 - 1678
- Sir Peter Paul Rubens
- Landscape with Pan and Syrinx
- the reverse of the panel bears the brand of the Antwerp panel-makers' guild and the maker's mark of Michiel Vriendt (MV in monogram)
- oil on panel
- 23 by 37 1/4 in.; 58.2 by 94.6 cm.
Sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot (A. M. Le Comte de Schönborn), 17-18 May 1867, lot 210 for 7,000 francs;
Salomon Goldschmidt, Paris;
His (anonymous) sale, Paris, Georges Petit (M.G...., 14-17 May 1898, lot 95, reproduced, 9,200 francs, to Max von Goldschmidt-Rothschild, Frankfurt-am-Main;
By whom sold to the city of Frankfurt-am-Main November 1938;
Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt-am-Main, inv. no. SG 894;
Transferred to Central Collecting Point Wiesbaden 1947 and restituted to the heirs of Goldschmidt-Rothschild, 1948;
With Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York, circa 1960;
Brian Jenks, Astbury Hall, Shropshire;
With Edward Speelman, London, 1979-80;
British Rail Pension Fund Collection;
By whom sold, London, Sotheby's, 5 July 1995, lot 42 (as Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Younger);
David Koetser, 1995.
London, Thos. Agnew & Sons, Ltd., Thirty-five Paintings from the Collection of the British Rail Pension Fund, 8 November–14 December 1984, no. 3;
Leeds Castle, Kent, on loan, 1988-1995 ;
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, and Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, The Age of Rubens, September 1993 – April 1994, no. 17 (as Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder);
New Orleans 1997, no 43 (as Rubens and attributed to Jan Brueghel the Younger);
Baltimore 1997, no. 42 (as Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Younger);
Staatliche Museen, Kassel and Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt-am-Main, Pan & Syrinx: Eine erotische Jagd. Peter Paul Rubens, Jan Brueghel und ihre Zeitgenossen, 19 March – 22 August 2004, no. 23 (as Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Younger(?) – the author noting the difficulty of distinguishing between the father and son).
Possibly J Denucé, "Brieven en Documenten betreffend Jan Brueghel I en II," in Bronnen voor de geschiedenis van de Vlaamsche kunst, vol. III 1934, p. 142;
A. Pigler Barockthemen, 1956, p. 191 (as Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder);
M. Jaffé, "Rubens and Raphel," in Studies in Renaissance and Baroque Art Presented to Anthony Blunt, London and New York 1967, p. 100, reproduced, fig. 3 (as Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder);
M. Jaffé, Rubens and Italy, 1977, p. 23, note 50 (as Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder);
J. Müller Hofstede, "Rubens und Jan Brueghel: Diana und Ihre Nymphen," Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, cat. nos. 10/11, 1968, p. 231 (as Rubens and suggesting a co-attribution to Jan Brueghel the Younger;
K. Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere, Cologne 1979, pp. 417-420, 622-623, cat. no. 384a, reproduced fig. 504 (as Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder);
M. Kitson, in The Burlington Magazine 122 (September 1980), pp. 646, 664, reproduced fig. 63 (as Rubens and Jan Brueghel [sic]);
K. Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Jüngere (1601-1678), Freren 1984, pp. 70-71, 81, 417-418, cat. no. 256, reproduced (as Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Younger);
M. Jaffé, Rubens, Catalogo Completo, Milan 1989, p. 231, cat no. 442, reproduced (as Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder);
P.C. Sutton in The Age of Rubens, exhibition catalogue Boston and Toledo 1993-1994, pp. 35, 221, 260-262, cat. no. 17, reproduced (as Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder);
A. Balis, "The Age of Rubens - Book Review," in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 136, January 1994, p. 53 (as Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Younger);
New Orleans 1997, cat. no 43, reproduced (as Rubens and attributed to Jan Brueghel the Younger);
Baltimore 1999, cat. no. 42, reproduced (as Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Younger);
J. Lange, in Pan & Syrinx: Eine erotische Jagd. Peter Paul Rubens, Jan Brueghel und ihre Zeitgenossen, exhibition catalogue, Kassel and Frankfurt-am-Main 2004, cat. no. 23, (as Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Younger(?) – the author noting the difficulty of distinguishing between the father and son), reproduced.
The subject is taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, book I, verses 689-721. Syrinx was a wood nymph who emulated the goddess Diana both in her role as a hunter and in her desire to preserve her chastity. One day Pan saw Syrinx and, overcome with passion, chased her through the forest. She ran from him but was forced to stop at the river Ladon, where she begged the water nymphs to change her into another form so that she could escape her pursuer. Just as Pan reached her, she was transformed into a stand of reeds and thus eluded his advances. However, the sound of the wind rushing through the reeds produced such beautiful tones that Pan wanted to preserve them to remind himself of Syrinx, so he cut a few down and fashioned them into what today are known as Pan pipes.
Thoré-Bürger described Pan and Syrinx in glowing terms in the catalogue of the Pommersfelden sale in 1867 (see Provenance) and in contrast to many other important compositions by Rubens, the attribution has remained largely unchallenged (see Literature). Traditionally the landscape and animals were thought to be by Jan Brueghel the Elder, but new research and a better understanding of the artistic relationship between the father and son has led to the recognition that they are, in fact, the work of Jan the Younger. Jan the Elder died in a cholera epidemic that swept Antwerp in 1625, so Jan the Younger returned from Italy in August of that year to take over his workshop. He also assumed his father’s contracts, completing some of the pictures that had been left unfinished at his death.
It is clear that the figures in the Weldon picture were painted first and the landscape added later, but the question of how much time elapsed between the two events had been for many years unresolved. An entry in Jan the Younger’s daybook from 1626 – the record of what he had painted during that year and the prices asked – provides an important clue: "14, Noch ghemact een stuxhen Pan en Siringa, S. Rubens de figurkens, dat estimerende op 120" (14. Made another piece of Pan and Syrinx, Sig. Rubens [did] the figures, priced at 120).3 While we cannot be certain that this note definitely refers to the present work, it is extremely likely that it does. Certainly the style here is still very dependent on that of his father, which is entirely consistent for a painting from his early period. The steps in the creation of Pan and Syrinx would then be as follows: the panel was delivered by Michiel Vriendt to Rubens’s workshop, where it was primed and given to the master to paint the figures; it was then sent to the Brueghel workshop and Jan the Younger added the landscape and animals, presumably based on a preliminary design by his father.
Rubens also collaborated with Jan Brueghel the Elder, as is evidenced by a description of a picture in the latter’s estate (known from his son’s diary) “Den Pan en Siringa van Slg. Rubens, den gront vader Saliger" (A Pan and Syrinx by Sig. Rubens, the background by the deceased).4 That picture may well be the painting sold at Sotheby's, London, 12 July 2001, lot 29, now in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Museum Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, Kassel (inv. no. GK 1229), which is datable to about 1617 (fig. 2).5 It is a somewhat more static work and shown from a closer point of view than the Weldon picture. In it Syrinx has stopped running and turns to face Pan who is holding the edge of her drapery in one hand and a bunch of reeds in the other. Around them is a profusion of small plants and flowers, along with frogs and water fowl.
The Weldon picture, which was painted nearly a decade later, is conceived quite differently. The dynamism of Rubens’s brushstrokes create an energy that transfers to the running figures and is echoed in the composition itself. Rubens paints Pan in short, bold strokes, sketching in his hair and the fur on his cloak, while using a loaded brush to create the swirls of Syrinx’s hair and drapery. Her red cloak is enlivened with pink and white highlights and greenish-gray shadows. The figures’ chase has set some of the birds into motion, and they fly off to the left. Jan the Younger dapples the foreground with irises, lilies and small water lilies, adding color to the prevailing green of the landscape. The sharp blades of the reed contrast with the loosely painted figures, setting them off and magnifying the sensuosity of Rubens’s creation.
1. For illustrations and descriptions of the most important versions, see J. Lange, under Literature passim.
2. K. Ertz 1984, under Literature, pp. 70-71, 81, 417-418, was the first to make the attribution to Jan the Younger.
3. Ibid., p. 526.
4. Sutton, under Literature, pp. 261-262, with references to the early sources.
5. This painting was formerly attributed to Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Younger, but the most recent scholarship has given it to Jan the Elder. See Lange, op. cit., p. 142.