Lot 11
  • 11

Pieter Brueghel the Younger Brussels 1564-1637/8 Antwerp

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Description

  • Pieter Brueghel the Younger
  • The Kermesse of St. George

  • signed and dated lower left: P. BREVGHEL. 1628
    inscribed on the banderolle above the saint: LAET DIE... EN HAER KERMISSEN HOVWEN
  • oil on oak panel

Provenance

Bought by the grandparents of the late owner by 1930;
Thence by descent.

Exhibited

Antwerp, Exposition d'Art Flamand, 1930, no. 57;
Brussels, Cinq Siècles d'Art Ancien, 1935, no. 174.

Literature

G. Marlier (ed. J. Folie), Pierre Brueghel le Jeune, Brussels 1969, pp. 381-6;
K. Ertz, Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere..., Die Gemälde mit Kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Lingen 2000, vol. II, pp. 870-2, 909, no. 1239, reproduced p. 870, fig. 703.

Catalogue Note

"Cette composition, dont nous n'avons repéré que trois exemplaires, est assurément une des plus belles et des plus complètes de Pierre le Jeune, celle où sa personnalité s'affirme de la manière la plus brillante.  Le tableau est à cent pour cent 'breughélien', à la fois par le rhythme dynamique qui le parcourt de part en part, la stylisation des figures et les accords de couleurs.  Mais tout en observant ces données qui se situent dans le prolongement de l'art du Vieux Bruegel, son fils Pierre donne libre cours à la verve qui lui est propre, à son goût de l'anecdote et à sa maîtrise d'un métier qui égale celui des plus grands".   ("This composition, of which we have only found three other examples, is certainly one of Pieter the Younger's most beautiful and most complete and one which most brilliantly affirms his own personality. The picture is one hundred per cent "Brueghelian", not only for the dynamic rythmes that pervade it but also in the stylisation of the figures and in the colour harmonies. Whilst maintaining the continuity of Pieter Brueghel the Elder's art through these themes, his son Pieter gives free reign to his own particular vigour, his own taste for anecdote and his own mastery of his profession that equals those of the greatest artists").

Georges Marlier thus rightly selected this composition out for such rare and effusive praise, because it is by far the most accomplished of Pieter Brueghel the Younger's own compositions (see under Literature).  Many of his best pictures are copies after his father's work or are derived from other sources, and none of his own compositions are so grandly conceived as this one.  Only three autograph versions are known, of which this is the largest and by far the best, and the only one to be dated.  Although all three pictures are quite similar, Klaus Ertz (see Literature) divides the compositional type in two:  Type A, the present picture, and Type B, the examples in the Antwerp Museum and formerly the Pottiez collection, Brussels, which are both much smaller, each circa 72 by 102 cm..  The most noticeable differences are in the lower right corner: in Type B the bagpipe player no longer anchors the corner of the composition but is relegated to the doorway of the inn, and the seated glutton rests on the log, and not on the basket full of produce.  There are, however, numerous smaller differences: the cockerel on the thatched roof and the goose under the bench are missing in Type B, for example.

Pieter Brueghel has avoided the temptation to fill this very grand composition with a myriad of tiny figures, but has varied their scale so that the foreground figures are unusally large and complete.  In relatively few of his pictures do we see such a degree of interest in the characterisation of his Flemish peasants bent on excess, and in the colour and texture of their clothing, as in the texture of the surfaces of the buildings behind them.  He reveals himself here as a startlingly original colourist capable of much greater subtlety than usual - as for example in the shot tones of the bagpipe player to the right - a point that Marlier attempted to make by reproducing details of the ex-Pottiez version in colour plates.

Bought for the family that owns it now by 1930, this painting has not been publicly exhibited since 1935, and few scholars have ever seen it.  Its reappearance on the market after three-quarters of a century is therefore an exciting event.

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