Lot 12
  • 12

Marten van Cleve I

200,000 - 300,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Marten van Cleve I
  • Christ on the road to Calvary
  • bears signature and date lower right: P. BRVGEL / AN  1567
  • oil on panel


Trude Fischer, Lucerne;
Sale Lucerne, Galerie Fischer, 16 June 1995, lot 2034;
Sale, Lucerne, Galerie Fischer, 19 November 1998, lot 2017;
Sale, Vienna, Dorotheum, 24 March 1999, lot 189;
where purchased by the present owner.


K. Ertz, Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere (1546-1637/38). Die Gemälde mit kritischem Oevrekatalog, Lingen 1988/2000, vol. I, pp. 344-35, reproduced p. 346, fig. 249.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work on panel is made from four sections of oak joined horizontally. The reverse of the panel is un-cradled, but there are heavy linen reinforcements along the joins, as well as inlaid wooden supports in some areas. The paint layer is mostly stable, with very slight instability particularly visible in the upper left sky. Under ultraviolet light numerous restorations are visible in the sky. All of the four joins have received retouches and there are fine restorations added here and there to help define the numerous details throughout. Cleaning is not necessarily encouraged, but a surface clean and a fresh varnish followed by some adjustment to the existing restorations may be the best approach.
"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

Marten van Cleve was a member of a family of artists from the South Netherlands who moved from Cleve to Antwerp in the late 15th or early 16th century.  He became a master of the Guild of Saint Luke in 1551-2 and, according to his biographer Carel van Mander, entered the workshop of Frans Floris in circa 1553-5.  He eventually set up his own studio around 1556 which was highly productive in the 1560s and 1570s.  Fully authenticated works by van Cleve are rare; among these are two paintings in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, one of which is dated 1566, and another signed and dated work from 1579 in the collection of the Hermitage, St. Petersburg.1  Van Cleve was a contemporary of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and, while his subject matter and style were clearly influenced by him, his reputation as simply a Bruegel follower is unwarranted.2  He devised his own compositions, some now known only through drawings, which proved to be very popular and were even copied by artists of the next generation, such as Pieter Brueghel the Younger.3

The composition of this work appears to be unique and to have originated with van Cleve.  Examination of this painting under infrared-reflectography reveals a wonderfully loose, freehand drawing throughout, especially in many of the foreground figures.  Klaus Ertz (see Literature), who had known this painting from when it was in the collection of Trude Fischer in Lucerne, believes it to be fully by van Cleve and, indeed, one of his most important works.  He points out many motifs - the dog in the foreground, the piebald horse, the hen in the basket, the young boy with the eggs – that can be found in other works by the artist.  Also fully characteristic are van Cleve’s preference for powerful forms, particularly the stocky body types of the figures and their rough, quirky faces, as well as their sense of movement with outstretched arms.  Here the artist depicts a chaotic scene with figures crowded into the foreground against a bleak landscape leading up to Golgotha.  Amidst the profusion of figures, it is almost difficult to pick out Christ carrying the Cross at middle left and the figure of a woman, presumably Veronica, holding out her veil.  Though a religious subject, Van Cleve has filled the scene with prosaic details such as peasants with their produce, mothers with infants and young children, and a dog in the foreground nosing a frog, that add  a strong narrative quality to the work.

The catalogue of the sale in Lucerne in 1998 (see Provenance), lists a certificate from Klaus Ertz dated Lingen, 27 April 1995; he dates the picture to the 1560s or 1570s.

Please contact the department to see the infrared-reflectogram images;  a dendrochronological report is also available.

1.  The Slaughtered Ox, signed and dated 1566, oil on panel, 68 by 53.3 cm., and A Flemish Household, oil on panel, 123 by 144 cm., both in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; The Beggars, signed and dated 1579, oil on panel, in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg.
2.  See C. van de Velde, in Grove Dictionary of Art, New York 1996, Vol. 7 p. 428.
3. See C. Currie and D. Allart, The Brueg[H]el Phenomenon, Paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Pieter Brueghel the Younger with a Special Focus on Technique and Copying Practice, Brussels 2012, vol. II, "Case Study 9," pp. 646-669.