Lot 206
  • 206

Herri met de Bles

80,000 - 120,000 USD
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  • Herri met de Bles
  • The journey to Emmaus
  • signed lower center with the owl device
  • oil on panel


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 oak panel has received a wide oak rectangular reinforcement around the edges. This added wood seems to be 18th if not 17th century, and this method of support may date from that period. The wax stamp on the reverse is clearly visible. The surface is flat and the paint layer is cleaned and restored. The varnish is slightly "sprayed" feeling and could be adjusted. The details throughout this work are extremely fine and certainly look well preserved. In the lower left, there is a diagonal crack in the panel which has attracted a thin horizontal band of restoration running beneath the three figures, measuring three quarters of an inch at its widest. The restoration is mostly visible under ultraviolet light and is confined to small areas of loss and weakness, none of which are particularly pervasive. The restorations present the picture very well, and the work should be hung as is.
"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

The Journey to Emmaus was an apposite subject for Herri Met de Bles, an artist famous for his expansive "World Landscapes," and about a dozen paintings by him of the subject are known today.1 The events are recounted in Luke 24:  two Disciples meet the risen Christ as they travel to the village of Emmaus but do not recognize him.   It is only later when they dine together that they realize who he is and that the stories of his Resurrection are true.  As in his other paintings of this subject, Herri sets the scene in a  river with mountains rising far into the distance.  Within this rocky landscape he sets common domestic scenes — little vignettes — enlivening the composition but also contrasting the smallness of human endeavor with the vast expanse of the world beyond.

This present panel differs from most ot the other versions in a number of ways.  The viewpoint is lower and the figures of Christ and the disciples are larger, occupying a more important place in the composition.  The mountains are less overwhelming and the peaks lower, leaving a greater expanse of sky. In the center of the composition Herri constructs an elaborate chain of bridges which the travelers will have to use to cross the river and reach the village of Emmaus beyond.  However, as is common throughout his work, he inserts motifs from other pictures.  In the right distance, seated in an archway under a rotunda, are Christ dining with the two disciples, a scene repeated in a larger version of the subject, formerly in the Cromwell collection.2   Similarly, the figure of the laundress, here kneeling on a platform by the river, can also be found in the Landscape with the Journey to Emmaus in the Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp.3 

Regrettably we have very little concrete information about the artist himself.  He has been identified as Herry de Patinir, possibly a relative of Joachim Patinir, and was registered in the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke in 1535.  He was the principle follower of Patinir, the pioneer of landscape painting, and today Herri is one of the best known early painters of this genre.

1.  J. Toussaint, Autour de Henri Bles, Namur 2000, p. 214.
2.  Ibid., p. 218, no. 31, reproduced p. 219.
3.  Ibid., p. 214, no. 29, reproduced p. 215.