Lot 20
  • 20

Pieter Brueghel the Younger Brussels 1564 - 1637/8 Antwerp

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
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  • Pieter Brueghel the Younger
  • Winter Landscape with Skaters
  • signed lower right P.BREVGHEL
  • oil on panel


With Galerie van Diemen, Berlin;
Jacob Hartog, The Hague;
His Forced Sale to Hitler for the Linz Museum, August 18, 1942 for 5,000 hfl.;
Restituted to the Dutch government April 29, 1946;
Returned to Jacob Hartog, New York in 1946,
Thence by descent in the family.


B. Schwarz, Hitler's Museum. Die Fotalben Gemaldegalerie Linz, Vienna 2004, no. XXI/41, p. 144, illustrated p. 351

Catalogue Note

This beautifully preserved picture is a significant addition to the group of some ten to twelve autograph versions of this composition by Pieter Brueghel, the Younger, of which all are signed, one securely dated 1621, and two others possibly dated 1613 and 16221.  It is distinguished from the others by the subtle variations of tone, and by the menacing cloudy sky rendered with scumbled brushwork, from which snow falls in slanting flurries.

As with most of Pieter Brueghel, the Younger’s compositions, this one has an earlier source, although it is not clear if it originates with his father, Pieter Brueghel, the Elder2.  The composition is known to us from an engraving by Hieronymus Cock, one of a set of the Four Seasons published in 15703.  All four compositions were painted subsequently, and often, by Pieter Brueghel, the Younger (and by other painters, such as Abel Grimmer)4. The engraving of Spring is inscribed Bruegel inv, acknowledging Pieter Brueghel, the Elder’s authorship of the design, and both Spring and Summer are closely derived in reverse from careful preparatory drawings by Pieter Brueghel, the Elder, which were clearly made to be engraved, even though they are dated three years apart: 1565 and 15685.  The engravings of Autumn and Winter however, acknowledge Hans Bol as the source of the design.  They are of a rather different character to the other two, and are more consistent with Hans Bol’s compositions than with those of the Elder Brueghel, so it seems unlikely, as Klaus Ertz has suggested might be the case, that Pieter Brueghel, the Elder is the source of the designs for all Four Seasons, interpreted by Bol, and more likely that Brueghel had not completed the preparatory drawings for the engravings upon his death in the preceding year, 1569, leaving his publisher to seek sources for the other two designs6.  Unfortunately, neither of Hans Bol’s preparatory drawings appears to have survived.  What makes the matter complicated is that Hans Bol was himself heavily dependent on Pieter Brueghel, the Elder's example.  The inn to the right in both the print and the painting is derived from the inn that both Brueghel and Bol would have known, in Hoboken, outside Antwerp.  It occurs for example in Pieter Brueghel, the Elder's drawing of 1559 in the Courtauld Institute, London, and in engravings after his designs7.  The church in Brueghel's drawing may well have served as the inspiration for both the churches in the left distance in the present painting, both absent in the print.  Pieter Brueghel the Younger would not however have needed his father's drawing as a source, since he too would have known the church well.

All the authentic versions of this composition are on panels of similar size, or when cut down, of similar proportions, confirming that in all likelihood the design was transferred by tracing within the Brueghel atelier.  In detail however, Brueghel’s paintings show numerous differences between them, and he freely adapted the design of the print published by Cock, emphasizing the repoussoir tree trunks to left and right, and making the composition sparser and more wintry: closer in fact to the spirit of his father.


1  See K. Ertz, Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere, Freren 1998/2000, pp. 601-2, nos. E 665 – E 677.  E = Echt, meaning Genuine, as opposed to A = Abgeschrieben, meaning De-attributed or Rejected, and F = Fraglich, meaning Doubtful or Questionable.  The uncertainty about the number of accepted works has to do with the likelihood of duplication of entries. 
2   Pieter Brueghel the Elder altered the spelling of his family name, it is thought as a result of his Italian sojourn, by removing the h.  His chosen spelling is generally adhered to today.  His sons Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder did not follow him in this, but Pieter changed the spelling of his surname in his signature to Breughel, apparently in 1626.  Both forms are used today.  The form of the signature used here suggests that the present picture dates from 1626 or later. 
3   See Hollstein…;, 
4   See Ertz, op. cit., pp. 537-574 for a general discussion of the composition (the Cock prints reproduced pp. 538-9, figs. 408-411; the Grimmer set of paintings reproduced p. 539, figs 419-422).
Idem, reproduced p. 538, figs. 412, 413.
6  Idem, especially pp. 537-542.
7  See H. Mielke, Pieter Bruegel.  die Zeichnungen, Belgium 1996, pp. 55-6, no. 44, reproduced p. 167.