Lot 2
  • 2

Netherlandish School, mid-16th Century

80,000 - 120,000 USD
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  • Netherlandish School, mid-16th Century
  • A landscape with the conversion of Saul
  • oil on panel


Private European collection since at least the 19th century;
Thence by descent to an American collector. 


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 has not been restored for many years. It is painted on an oak panel which has been thinned and cradled. The paint layer is stable. The panel shows an original join running horizontally through the center. This join has lost a little paint, and there are a few unrestored losses in a few spots in the upper center sky and within the figures and horses in the lower center. No retouches are visible under ultraviolet light due to the old varnish. If and when the picture is cleaned, old restorations will probably only be revealed in the sky, particularly in the brown stripe running horizontally in the lower sky, which is not original. Cleaning the work should reveal an extremely well preserved and beautiful paint layer in need of only a few restorations.
"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

With its myriad of figures, varied topography, and intricate details, this extensive panoramic view relates to the landscape tradition first established in the early sixteenth century by artists such as Joachim Patinir, Herri met de Bles, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder.  The genre remained popular in the Netherlands during the sixteenth century and witnessed its strongest flourishing within the artistic and intellectual environment of Antwerp, a thriving commercial center and the print capital of Northern Europe.  Small in size and easily transported, landscapes of this type found a strong market among connoisseurs and collectors throughout Europe from the mid-sixteenth century onward, and they continued to influence Northern artistic circles well into the seventeenth century, including those of Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens.

Rendered from a birds-eye perspective, this fascinating Landscape with the Conversion of Saul unfolds over three registers.  From the dark and crowded foreground, to the crisp detailed rendering of a cityscape and its environs, to the atmospheric mist of the distant mountains, the audience is invited to explore every last detail of this intriguing Netherlandish landscape.  A small owl—a motif that appears in many Netherlandish landscapes of the sixteenth century—is perched on a branch in the lower right corner of this composition. Behind the rearing horses and the soldiers that surround the fallen Saul who gazes up in awe at a vision of Christ, a seemingly infinite number of battling forces snake along a winding terrain and march under various small houses perched precariously atop a craggy precipice. This elevated and darkened outcropping of land overlooks the varied architecture of a city resembling that of Jerusalem, which rises from within a deep valley.  Nearby, a lush forest that rolls gently up to a tranquil harbor and a rocky peak, and beyond the distant blue-toned terrain fades softly towards the horizon.  

The cityscape of Jerusalem in the present panel is based on a woodcut depicting a map of the Holy Land in Bernard von Breydenbach’s  Peregrinationes in Terram Sanctam first published 1486.  This illustrated travel book proved immensely popular and was reprinted over thirteen times in numerous languages across Europe until around 1520.1   Furthermore, the dynamic grouping of figures in the foreground have roots in a series of prints by Enea Vico after Francesco Salviati, which circulated throughout the Netherlands and were freely adapted by artists, including artists from the second half of the sixteenth century such as Frans Floris and Maerten de Vos.

1.  A woodcut of this map is preserved in the collection of the British Museum, London (inv. no. 1904,0206.2.8)
2.  See D. Landau and P. Parshall, The Renaissance Print: 1470-1550, New Haven 1994, p. 293, reproduced fig. 311.