Lot 22
  • 22

Pieter Brueghel the Younger

2,500,000 - 3,500,000 USD
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  • Pieter Brueghel the Younger
  • Summer: figures eating during the summer harvest
  • signed and dated lower left: BRVEGHEL1600
  • oil on panel


With Galerie Sanct Lucas, Vienna, by 1937;
Prof Julius Singer, Prague (acquired from the above June 14, 1937 for 16.000 Schillings);
Max Oberländer, Vienna and Rio de Janeiro (probably acquired from the above);
Thence by descent to the present owner.


G. Marlier, Pierre Brueghel le Jeune, Brussels 1969, p. 232; 
K. Ertz and C. Ertz (eds.), Breughel-Brueghel, Pieter Breughel d. J.-Jan Brueghel d. Ä., Flämische Malerei um 1600, Tradition und Fortschritt, exhibition catalogue, Essen 1997, p. 373, under cat. no. 120, reproduced, fig. 4;  
Breughel-Brueghel, Een Vlaamse schildersfamilie rond 1600 (Une famille de peintres flamands vers 1600), exhibition catalogue, Antwerp 1998, p. 360, cat. no. 127d; 
K. Ertz, Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere (1564-1637/38). Die Gemälde mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Lingen 1988/2000, p. 594, cat. no. E627, and p. 563, fig. 462.


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 has not been recently cleaned and is noticeably dirty. However, the condition does seem to be particularly good. Made originally from three pieces of wood joined horizontally, the reverse of the panel has since been cradled. The reverse of the oak panel has also been treated with wax. While this wax does have some acidic qualities, it certainly does not appear to be compromising the health of the painting. The original join has become active within the cornfield in the center of the left side and has received some visible and discolored retouches, which show strongly under ultraviolet light. There is also a restored paint loss in the lower left, but it does not interfere with the signature. This loss is isolated and not significant. Although there is some likelihood that retouches may become apparent if and when the painting is cleaned, it is more than likely that there will be no retouches of any note given the fact that none can be identified with the naked eye. The work is in remarkably good condition.
"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 Brueghel the Younger's interpretation of Summer must be considered one of his most popular and successful subjects, and the present version is perhaps the finest and most impeccably preserved example to emerge in decades. Of the approximately twenty variations on the composition which Ertz considers autograph (only five of which are dated), this panel, signed and dated 1600, is the earliest by some 21 years, a fact which strongly suggests that it is the prime version of the group.1  As such, it is a key marker in analyzing not only Brueghel's own development, but also the interplay between Brueghel the Younger and his father. The composition essentially derives from two main sources in the work of Pieter Breugel the Elder: his groundbreaking painting of The Harvesters (1565; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; fig. 1), and his drawing of 1568 (Hamburg Kunsthalle, Kupferstichkabinett). The drawing was popularized at the end of Breugel the Elder's life largely due to the engraving by Pieter van der Heyden, which was published a year after Breugel's death by Hieronymous Cock, as part of a series of the Four Seasons (fig. 2).

While Brueghel the Younger quite clearly borrows directly from his father, it is in the implementation of these borrowed elements where his own creativity becomes apparent. Here, Brueghel quotes the group of eating figures from the New York Harvesters, though he chooses to omit the outstretched sleeper on the left. The landscape background, however, with the field of corn and the church tower appearing above the distant trees, as well as the figure holding a scythe with his back to the viewer, is derived from Bruegel the Elder's drawing in Hamburg. Few other paintings in the entire group follow this particular arrangement; the best being the present version, the picture formerly with P. de Boer, Amsterdam (dated 1624), and that sold London, Christie's, 3 July 2012, lot 41 (dated 1623).  

Brueghel's compositional choices serve to imbue the picture with a feeling of calm and organized communal labor. Whereas in other versions which feature the larger left foreground worker, along with the expressive drinker at front, this variation features a more open and idyllic setting. Here, there is an unspoken and casual understanding between the active workers and the resting circle, each seemingly taking their turn to relax, thus focussing the attention of the viewer on the shared aspects of the work. In the versions with larger figures the viewer is asked to focus on the demanding physicality of the harvest. It is through these not so subtle differentiations that Brueghel the Younger expresses his own artistic creativity, and separates himself from his father as a thoughtful and deliberate interpreter of his predecessor's work. 

Recent dendrochronological analysis of the tree ring sequence of the three boards which make up the panel suggest that the trees were likely to have been felled after circa 1584, with a usage date before circa 1616. The three boards were derived from different trees sourced from the eastern Baltic.2

1. See Literature, Ertz 2000, cat. nos. E.627-647.
2. 2. A full copy of the dendrochronology report by Ian Tyers is available upon request from the department and will be supplied to the buyer.