Lot 4
  • 4

Pieter Coecke van Aelst

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • Pieter Coecke van Aelst
  • The Rest on the Flight into Egypt
  • oil on oak panel, shaped top


Mellerio Collection;

Their sale, Paris, 23 March 1939, lot 25 (as Jan Gossaert);

Acquired by a private collector during the early 1950s;

His deceased sale, London, Sotheby's, 9 July 1998, lot 58A, for £56,500, where acquired by the present owner.


G. Marlier, Pierre Coeck D'Alost, Brussels 1966, p. 234.


The following condition report is provided by Hamish Dewar who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Structural Condition The arched panel is uncradled with a horizontal join running through the centre of the panel. The structural condition is sound and secure and the join is hardly visible on the paint surface. Paint Surface The paint surface has a very discoloured and opaque varnish layer and should respond extremely well to cleaning and revarnishing. There is a pattern of drying craquelure which is not visually distracting and is consistent with a painting of this age. The craquelure pattern is most visible in the dark pigments of the Virgin's robes. There are various surface scratches and abrasions including one inverted V-shaped thin hairline scratch in the lower left of the composition. Inspection under ultra violet light confirms how discoloured the varnish layers have become and shows only very small spots and lines of inpainting. There may be other older retouchings beneath the opaque varnish layers which are not identifiable under ultraviolet light. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in very good and stable condition with the potential to be transformed by cleaning and revarnishing.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Pieter Coecke van Aelst was one of the leading exponents of the mannerist tradition in Antwerp during the first half of the 16th century. In his 1966 catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work, George Marlier published the present work along with three further versions: one in the Collégiale des Saints Sulpice et Denis in Diest,1 another in the Archiepiscopal Museum in Utrecht (inv. no. 67), and a third (of lesser quality) formerly in the Frederick E. Walch Collection, Garches.The attribution of the present panel was also endorsed by the eminent Early Netherlandish scholar M.J. Friedländer, a copy of whose certificate (located and dated Amsterdam, 2 November 1951) accompanied the work when acquired by the present owner in these rooms in 1998.

This depiction of The Rest on the Flight into Egypt was almost certainly designed as the central panel of a triptych and indeed when sold from the Mellerio Collection in Paris in 1939 it was accompanied by wings – by a different hand - displaying Saints Paul and Matthew (?) on the left and Mary Magdalene on the right. Likewise the aforementioned version in Utrecht is the central component of a triptych, the wings also of different authorship and in this case representing portraits of donors.

Pieter Coecke van Aelst was a student of Barent van Orley and travelled to Italy to continue his artistic formation. The present work reveals the artist’s synthesis of the highly detailed Flemish tradition with Italianate mannerist forms clearly visible in the figure types. His career culminated in his appointment as Court Painter to the Emperor Charles V in 1550.

1. G. Marlier, Pierre Coeck D'Alost, Brussels 1966, p. 233, reproduced fig. 172.

2. Ibid., p. 234, reproduced fig. 173.