The sources for this personal direction in Brueghel’s late works seem to have had their roots in the preceding century. Unlike so much of his œuvre they are not directly dependent upon the designs of his father Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525–69). The closest analogy and a possible source of inspiration would be the work of the so-called ‘Master of the Small Landscapes’, an artist or group of artists active in Antwerp in the middle of the 16th century. This hand, or more accurately hands, was responsible for a series of landscape drawings from which forty-four etchings were made, probably by the brothers Jan and Lucas Doetechum, and published in Antwerp by Hieronymous Cock. The first series of plates, entitled Multifarium Consularum and numbering fourteen in all, was published in 1559, and a second, consisting of thirty plates under the title Praediorum villarum published in 1561. The original drawings have been attributed, inter alia, to Hans Bol (1534–93), Mathijs Cock (c. 1505–48), Cornelis van Dalem (c. 1530–73/6), and of course, Pieter Brueghel the Elder himself.5 They are distinguished on the one hand by their humble and rural subject matter, which consisted of the manors and villages around Antwerp, and on the other by their noticeable lack of figures, a very considerable contrast to the teeming fantasies and panoramic constructs of the pre-eminent ‘World Landscape’ tradition. Ertz has correctly pointed out the affinity between Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s late landscapes such as this and a number of the drawings within the Master of the Small landscapes group.2
1. Panel, signed, 25 by 34 cm. Ertz 2000 p. 823, no. E 1109, reproduced in colour plate 659.
2. Ertz 2000, pp. 806-808, figs. 654–57.
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