Lot 9
  • 9

Jan Brueghel the Elder

150,000 - 200,000 GBP
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  • Jan Brueghel the Elder
  • Studies of apples, pears, grapes, blackberries, an artichoke, spears of asparagus and a sprig of oak 
  • oil on oak panel
  • 45.7 by 64.1 cm.


Lord Bateman, Kalmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire;

His sale, London, Christie's, 11 April 1896, lot 137, as Snyders, for 15 guineas to Christie;

Anonymous sale, London, Christie’s, 18 May 1917, lot 85, as F. Snyders, for 10 guineas to Holzapfel;

With Galerie Dr. Schäffer, Berlin and New York, 1917;

With Galerie Dr. Benedict & Co., Berlin, 1929;

Ludwig Burchard, Germany, London and Farnham (Surrey), by 1929;

With Colnaghi, London, 1974;

Anonymous sale (‘Property from a European Private Collection’), London, Sotheby's, 5 July 1995, lot 12;

With Bernheimer, Munich, from whom acquired by the present owner.


Brussels, Paleis voor Schone Kunsten, La nature morte hollandaise, 1929, no. 22 (lent by L. Burchard, with labels recording the loan affixed to the reverse);

London, P. & D. Colnaghi & Co. Ltd, Old Master Paintings, 21 May – 22 June 1974, no. 42 (as Jan Brueghel the Elder).


E. Zarnowska, La nature-morte hollandaise: les principaux représentants, ses origines, son influence, exh. cat., Brussels 1929, p. 8, cat. no. 22, reproduced p. 45, plate 12;

H. Gerson and E. H. ter Kuile, Art and Architecture in Belgium, 1600–1800, London 1960, p. 61, reproduced fig. 44B;

P. & D. Colnaghi & Co. Ltd, Old Master Paintings, exhibition catalogue, London 1974, cat. no. 42, reproduced plate XXXI (as Jan Brueghel the Elder);  

J. P. De Bruyn, Le Siècle de Rubens dans les collections publiques françaises, exhibition catalogue, Paris 1977, p. 54, under cat. no. 18;

K. Ertz, Jan Breughel the Younger (1601–1678), Freren 1984, pp. 503–04, no. 334, reproduced, and colour plate 65 (as Jan Brueghel the Younger).


The following condition report is provided by Hamish Dewar who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Structural Condition The panel has a curved profile which is securely accommodated within the frame and two vertical lines of bevelled inserts are visible on the reverse on the left and right vertical edges. There is also a horizontal panel join. Paint Surface The paint surface has a reasonably even varnish layer. The panel join mentioned above is just visible and is approximately 23.5 cm above the lower horizontal framing edge. There is a very thin horizontal line in the paint surface running diagonally across the upper left of the paint surface. Inspection under ultra-violet light shows the varnish layers to be quite opaque, suggesting that cleaning would be beneficial. Ultra-violet light also shows a horizontal line of inpainting along the panel join and retouching on two of the apples on the left of the composition and some retouching in the corners and around the framing edges. It is difficult to be certain how much retouching has been applied due to the opaque varnish layers but there would appear to be larger areas of retouching running down from the upper horizontal framing edge and perhaps a thin layer of retouching covering much of the background, although this is rather indeterminate under ultra-violet light. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in reasonably good and stable condition although it is difficult to be certain as to how much retouching has been applied in the past. No further work is required for reasons of conservation.
"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

This picture was long given to Jan Brueghel the Elder, but was re-attributed to his son by Klaus Ertz (see literature), who saw the painting in 1983. The catalogue entry from the sale at Sotheby's in 1995 records that Professor Egbert Haverkamp Begemann had written to us to restate his conviction, first expressed in the catalogue of the 1974 Colnaghi exhibition, that the work was indeed by Jan Brueghel the Elder. A saleroom notice added the information that Professor Matthias Winner held the same view, also expressed in a letter. Recently Fred G. Meijer has informed us on the basis of first-hand inspection that he thinks Jan Brueghel the Elder is the author.1

The panel is formed of two boards of oak from the same oak tree from The Netherlands or Germany (thus not Baltic oak). A tree-ring analysis done by Ian Tyers of Dendrochronological Consultancy Ltd shows that the last visible growth ring is from 1582, and assuming a median eight years of sapwood growth for North-West European oak, a terminus post quem felling date of circa 1590 can be assumed.2 Because the grain of Western European oak is not as straight as that of Baltic oak, a greater degree of trimming is to be expected, so one cannot assume that the last visible hardwood ring is the youngest, and consequently a likely earliest date of use cannot be estimated with any accuracy. One should therefore add a small number of extra years to reach a likely earliest date of use, but we may reasonably assume that the panel was available for use from the first decade of the seventeenth century onwards. While this does not exclude Jan Brueghel the Younger's authorship – either when he is presumed to have been working in his father's workshop before he went to Italy in the early 1620s, or after his return in 1625 – it makes it more likely that this highly accomplished sketch was done by the mature Jan Brueghel the Elder.

While we are unaware of any comparable oil sketches of plant matter by Jan Brueghel the Elder, two such studies of animals: one of dogs; the other of donkeys, apes and cats, both done on primed oak panels, are in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Alexander Wied was the first to explain in detail why they are by Brueghel, connecting some of the animals with finished works, and dating both circa 1616.3 Wied's arguments were expanded on by Klaus Ertz in his revised Jan Brueghel the Elder catalogue raisonné.4 A handful of other such sketches are known, some only from photographs.

1. Oral communication.

2. A copy of his report, no. 849, dated May 2016, is available on request and will be supplied to the buyer.

3. See A. Wied, in K. Ertz (ed.), Breughel–Brueghel, exhibition catalogue, Lingen 1998, p. 304, no. 93, reproduced.

4.  See K. Ertz and C. Nitze-Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere (1568–1625), Kritischer Katalog der Gemälde, Lingen 2008–10, vol. III, pp. 1262–64, nos 582–83, reproduced.