Lot 21
  • 21

Jan Brueghel the Elder Brussels 1568 - 1625 Antwerp

600,000 - 800,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Jan Brueghel the Elder
  • A mountainous river landscape with travellers on a hill overlooking a distant town
  • signed and dated lower centre: BRVEGHEL 159..
  • oil on copper


Possibly painted for Cardinal Ascanio Colonna (1559/60-1608) in Rome;
Possibly in the collection of Filippo II Colonna (1663-1714), Palazzo Colonna, Rome, traditionally identified with the painting listed in his posthumous inventory of 1714, no. 417: "Un quadro dj palmi quattro, e tre per traverso rapp.te un Paese della sqola del Brilli con sua cornice nera con battenti doratj spett.e come sopra" but much more likely described along with its pendant as nos. 881a and 881b: "Due quadri in rame d'un palmo per traverso rapp.ti due Paesini, cioè uno un Paesino, e l'altro una Marina originali di d.o Brucolo...";
Possibly by descent in the Colonna family to Filippo III, Gran Contestabile del Regno di Napoli, and possibly identifiable in his 1783 inventory, along with the pendant, as no. 417: "Due quadri di 1 1/2 per traverso= Paesi, e Marine con Figure= Bruguel Paesista"; 
Private collection, Switzerland;
With Galeria Silvano Lodi, Campione, 1979;
Private collection, Germany.


London, Brod Gallery, Jan Brueghel the Elder. A loan exhibition of paintings, 1979, no. 3;
Essen, Kulturstiftung Ruhr, Villa Hügel, Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere, Jan Brueghel der Ältere: flämische Malerei um 1600, Tradition und Fortschritt, 1997, no. 22; and Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, 1997 - 98, no. 22;
Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Breughel-Brueghel.  Une famille des peintres flamands vers 1600, 3 May - 26 July 1998, no. 27.


L. Van Puyvelde, La Peinture Flamande à Rome, Brussels 1950, p. 182;
G. von Gehren, "Jan Brueghel der Ältere", in Weltkunst, vol. 49, 1979, p. 1761;
K. Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere; die Gemälde mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Cologne 1979, p. 557, cat. no. 4, reproduced p. 98 (where cited as from the Colonna collection, from 1714 to 1783, Rome);
K. Ertz (ed.), Jan Brueghel the Elder.  A loan exhibition of paintings, exhibition catalogue, London 1979, pp. 12, 14, 44-5, no. 3, reproduced p. 45 (as one of the two earliest dated works by the artist);
Possibly S. Bedoni, Jan Brueghel in Italia e il collezionismo del Seicento, Florence 1983, p. 74;
K. Ertz, in K. Ertz and C. Nitze-Ertz (eds.), Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere, Jan Brueghel der Ältere: flämische Malerei um 1600, Tradition und Fortschritt, Lingen 1997, pp. 132-5, cat. no. 22;
K. Ertz, in K. Ertz and C. Nitze-Ertz (eds.), Breughel-Brueghel.  Une famille des peintres flamands vers 1600, exhibition catalogue, Lingen 1998, pp. 103-6, no. 27, reproduced;
L. Pijl, "Jan Brueghel the Elder in Italy: Some new attributions", in Aux quatre vents, a Festschrift for Bert W. Meijer, Florence 2002, pp. 275-6 (as from the Colonna collection and 'in all likelihood' the companion piece to Brueghel's Storm at Sea with castaways from the same collection; see K. Ertz, no. 22).

Catalogue Note

This is the earliest known signed and dated work by Jan Brueghel the Elder, and is thus an important milestone in our understanding of his rapid early development in Italy.  He painted it in Rome, probably for Cardinal Ascanio Colonna (1559/60-1608), his principal patron between 1592 and 1594.  While the last digit of the date is no longer clealry legible, it has always been read as 1594.

The diagonal composition, with figures in the foreground at the margin of an upland forest, and a river (or as here an estuary) seen in the distance to the left, with its steep banks receding into the far distance, is of a type used by Jan Brueghel on several occasions in his early career.  In his 1997-98 exhibition catalogues, Ertz points to its use in an undated early work,1 but he uses the same scheme elsewhere, for example in The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, of which the prime version is dated 1595.2  The shimmering distances, rendered in varying tones of blue indicating aerial perspective, are drawn from the Netherlandish tradition of the World Landscape, while the wooded foreground is reminiscent of artists such as Gillis van Coninxloo and the Frankenthal School, whose works Jan Brueghel would have encountered on his journey in 1589/90 from Antwerp via Cologne (and thus presumably up the Rhine valley past Frankenthal) to Italy.

Luuk Pijl has suggested that the present work had in all likelihood a pendant, an undated marine, on a copper of similar dimensions, sold in these Rooms, 6 July 2000, lot 46, (for £620,000).  Both pictures are thought to be identical with works listed in the 1714 Colonna inventory, and there can be no doubt that both pictures were painted in Rome, almost certainly for Ascanio Colonna, at around the same time.3  Stefania Bedoni noted that in the 1783 Colonna catalogue, no. 288 included two small pictures, a storm and a landscape on copper: 'due quadretti .. rappresentante una Tempesta, l'altro in Rame  ... un Paese'.4  However, much more likely is that they are identifiable with no. 417: 'Due quadri di 1 1/2 per traverso= Paesi, e Marine con Figure= Bruguel Paesista'; or, less likely, with nos. 307a and 307b: 'Due Quadretti di due terzi di palmo per traverso... rappresentante una Tempesta, l'altro in Rame= un Paese= Bruguel Paesista'. All these descriptions are however too vague to permit such a positive identification, and furthermore, the present work and the marine are compositionally so unalike, that it seems unlikely that both were conceived as pendants, although they may have been part of a single larger commission from the Cardinal, who owned well over thirty works by Brueghel.  Both remained together (probably still in the Colonna collection until the latter part of the 20th century), until separated while in the possession of Silvano Lodi in around 1979.

1  See Ertz, under Literature, 1998, p. 103, fig. 27a.
Idem, pp. 109-113, no. 29 (the version of 1595) and no. 30, an undated version.
3  See under Literature, 2002.  The marine is discussed and reproduced, inter alia, in Ertz, 1998, pp. 113-5, no. 31.
4  S. Bedoni, Jan Brueghel in Italia e il collezionismo del Seicento, Florence 1983, p. 74.