Lot 11
  • 11

JAN BRUEGHEL THE ELDER | An extensive coastal landscape with fishermen landing and selling their catch, Jonah being cast overboard offshore

1,800,000 - 2,500,000 GBP
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  • Jan Brueghel the Younger
  • An extensive coastal landscape with fishermen landing and selling their catch, Jonah being cast overboard offshore
  • signed and dated lower right: BRVEGHEL/1595bears the Barberini Fidecommesso painted number of 1816 lower left: F.57. 
  • oil on copper
  • 26 x 35 cm.; 10 1/4  x 13 3/4  in.


Cardinal Antonio Barberini, Palazzo Barberini, Rome, in his manuscript inventory of 1644 (IV.inv.44, p. 31, no. 364);  Thence by descent in the Barberini collection until 1934, when listed in the Decree as no. 54;

With Castellani, Rome;

With Galerie de Boer, Amsterdam (bears their label on the reverse);

With Piet de Boer, Hergiswil, Switzerland, by whom sold on 19 October 1960 to;

Herbert Girardet, Kettwig;

By inheritance to his daughter;

By whom sold, London, Sotheby's, 3 December 2008, lot 10, sold for £1,071,650;

With Johnny van Haeften, London;

By whom sold to the present owner.


Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, 24 January – 30 March 1970, Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 24 April – 7 June 1970, Sammlung Herbert Girardet.  Holländische und Flämische Meister, no. 12; London, Brod Gallery, Jan Brueghel the Elder. A loan exhibition of paintings, no. 4;

Essen, Kulturstiftung Ruhr, Villa Hügel, Breughel–Brueghel, 16 August – 16 November 1997, no. 49;

Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Breughel–Brueghel, 7 December 1997 – 14 April 1998, no. 49;

Antwerp, Konklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Breughel–Brueghel, 3 May – 26 July 1998, no. 48.


Inventory of Cardinal Antonio Barberini, 1644 (IV.inv.44), p. 31, no. 364;  Fidecommesso list, after 1816 (Bibl. no. 27), no. F. 57;

Barberini Decree, 1934, (Bibl. no. 44), no. 54;

F. Zeri, Catalogo del Gabinetto Fotografico Nazionale: la Galleria e la Collezione Barberini, Rome 1954, no. 22; 

E. Brochhagen and K. Löcher, Alte Pinakothek München. Katalog 1, Deutsche und niederländische Malerei zwischen Renaissance und Barock, Munich 1961, p. 18, under no. 1887 (1963 ed., pp. 23–24; 1973 ed., p. 25);

J.R. Judson, Dirck Barendsz., Amsterdam 1970, p. 100, note 2;

H. Vey, Sammlung Herbert Girardet. Holländische und Flämische Meister, exh. cat., Essen 1970, unpaginated, no. 12, reproduced in colour;

M.A. Lavin, Seventeenth-Century Barberini documents and Inventories of Art, New York 1975, pp. 171, 470 and 716; 

K. Ertz in Jan Brueghel the Elder. A loan exhibition of paintings, exh. cat., London 1979, p. 46, no. 4, reproduced facing page;

K. Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere (1568–1625. Die Gemälde, Cologne 1979, pp. 28, 90, 92–93, 101, 108, 112, 114, 189, 559, no. 13, reproduced p. 29, fig. 5;

K. Ertz, in Breughel–Brueghel, exh. cat., Essen–Vienna, Lingen 1997, pp. 196–98, no. 49, reproduced; 

K. Ertz, in Brueghel–Brueghel, exh. cat., Antwerp, Lingen 1998, pp. 160–62, no. 48, reproduced p. 161;

Sotheby's, London, Old Master Paintings, 6 July 2000, p. 107, in the footnote to lot 46;

K. Ertz and C. Nitze-Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere (1568–1625), Lingen 2008–10, vol. II, pp. 484–86, no. 217 (and under no. 218), reproduced. 


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Jan Brueghel the Elder. The Sacrifice of Jonah. Signed and dated lower right BREUGHEL 1595 This painting is on a copper panel, which is firmly preserved with one slightly pointed place near the upper right corner but strong and even throughout elsewhere. The remarkably beautiful condition of this painting is exceptional. Immaculately intact down to the most minute detail of the minuscule figures, including the tiny image of Jonah himself thrown from the ship amidst the dark waters on the right. Life on the shore is also described with infinite delicacy and microscopic perfection, all perfectly preserved. It is only in the slightly larger figure overlooking the scene from the centre in the front that there have been a few small retouchings, as also in the two figures seated in the front left corner. Elsewhere throughout the exceptionally beautiful condition is evident. Some tiny touches can be seen under ultra violet light down the left edge, and there are a few little touches in the light of the upper sky. The signature itself is quite faint against the dark of the sea. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"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 is one of Jan Brueghel the Elder's earliest works, painted probably at the end of his stay in Rome, before his departure for Milan where he is recorded in the same year.1 His principal patron in Rome was Cardinal Ascanio Colonna, although he was already employed by Cardinal Federico Borromeo, but his pictures are found in other Roman collections at an early date, and this one was in the Barberini collection by 1644, and probably a decade or two earlier. It is a pioneering work, and one that was to prove influential, both on Jan Brueghel's own pictures, and on those of his contemporaries. Its excellent state of preservation makes it easy to read his subtle brushwork, even in the darkest parts, and helps us readily to understand why his paintings were so much appreciated at this early stage of his career in Italy. This picture combines two types of subject from Brueghel's early career: marines; and harbour or beach scenes with fishermen. He painted several stormy marines on copper plates, including two of Christ on the Sea of Galilee. The first of these dates from 1595 and was painted for Cardinal Borromeo, and the second dates from 1596, and though its early history is not known, it too was probably painted in Milan where it remained until the late twentieth century.2 An undated Sea Storm was probably painted for Ascanio Colonna in 1594–95, since it remained in the Colonna collection until the twentieth century.3 An undated Virgin appearing to Mariners was also probably painted in Milan for Borromeo, and finally, though not a pure marine, Jan Brueghel's Jonah disgorged by the Whale, an undated panel of circa 1600 is of obvious relevance to the present work, in view of the subject matter.4 That picture, and to a considerable extent the other paintings in this group, including the present painting, are distinctive in the way Jan Brueghel paints the disturbed green sea under the deep shadow of storm clouds, while retaining a high degree of clarity in the modelling. The present picture on copper, and to a lesser extent the Jonah panel, whose support allows for less crispness, are outstanding examples of this. In the present picture, notwithstanding the sun attempting to peer from behind a cloud, the meteorological conditions are so extreme as to make the scene almost as dark as night. The extensive landscape, almost a panorama, seems to be reinventing the World Landscape tradition of earlier in the century, so that night has arrived at the offshore right-hand part of the composition, while parts of the left-hand landward side – some figure groups, parts of the distant town – are lit by the largely diffused light of the sun, and the vast rocky outcrop that projects from the coastal water leaves an almost black shadow on the side of the viewer.

In all these works, but especially in this one, we see the legacy of the artist's father Pieter Bruegel the Elder – a legacy largely confined to Jan Brueghel's earliest works. Although Jan was only about four when his father died, it seems likely that he would have known at least some of his paintings. The conception of the World Landscape is nowhere more apparent in works associated with Pieter Bruegel than in the contested Fall of Icarus (unimaginable without Pieter Bruegel, whether or not he actually painted it), in which the broad compositional arrangement of a shoreline to the left rising to peaks, figures prominent in the left foreground, a prominent rock just offshore in the middle plane towards the left, and a ship to the right, with a limitless horizon beyond, is the same as in the present picture.5 Jan Brueghel would certainly have been familiar with Frans Huys' engravings of ships based on Pieter Bruegel's designs, which he freely adapted, including here. The broody mood of a panoramic World Landscape threatened by stormy weather is to be found in two of the set of Months in Vienna: The Return of the Herd (October–November) and the aptly named Gloomy Day (February–March).6 Jan Brueghel may have known the famous Seestürm in Vienna, although that has recently been relegated from Pieter Bruegel the Elder and attributed to Joos de Momper, and he probably did know well the controversial View of the Bay of Naples, then as now in the Doria Pamphilj collection in Rome, and now usually considered a pastiche of Pieter Bruegel.7 Jan Brueghel would also have known Paulus and Mathijs Bril's stormy marines, including Paulus Bril's fresco of The Sacrifice of Jonah painted in 1589 in the Scala Santa. 

While Jan Brueghel's marines are limited to his early career, his harbour and beach scenes, of which this is his earliest dated example, form an important part of his œuvre for much of the rest of his career. Brueghel used these compositions facing in both directions, and the earliest dated example, the Departure of Saint Paul of 1596 in Raleigh, North Carolina, is in reverse so the open water is to the left.8 Of similar orientation to the present picture are the two similar depictions of a Seaport with Christ Preaching, one undated in a private collection, the other of 1598 in Munich, Alte Pinakothek.9 The former is of particular relevance to the present picture, because it features a dark and stormy atmosphere, with very dark clouds over the sea to the right, and a figure leaning on a crook with his back to the viewer in the centre foreground, pointing to the figure of Christ. Further variations appear in pictures dated 160[?0], 1603 and 1605, and then recur less frequently in Brueghel's later work.10


This painting was certainly in the Barberini collection by 1644, when it appears in the manuscript inventory of Cardinal Antonio Barberini, which was occasioned by the terminal illness of his uncle Pope Urban VIII, and was drawn up in April of that year. It is listed on page 31, no. 364: 'Un quadretto in rame di una marina con pescatori, et in lontananza una nave con Jona, che lo buttano in mare, mano di Brughel cornice d'ebano' (in margin: 81). In English this reads: 'A small picture on copper of a marine with fishermen, and in the distance a ship with Jonas whom they throw into the sea, from the hand of Brueghel, in an ebony frame'The same room contained at least two other Jan Brueghels, but since this and preceding rooms are headed Segue la discontra or retroscritta Stanza, it is not a simple matter to identify where in the Palazzo Barberini this picture was located. An anonymous painting of 'Jonah and the Whale' in an ebony frame, but without further description ('Istoria di giona, e della Balena con le cornice nere') is listed as no. 105 in the inventory of Maffeo Barberini: properties willed to his brother Carlo, in 1623 (I.inv.23, p. 4). Antonio Barberini was the primary resident of the Palazzo Barberini from 1635 onwards: his cousin Francesco had moved to the Palazzo della Cancelleria while Prince Taddeo Barberini had returned to the old Barberini palace in the via dei Giubbonari.

Until Maffeo's election to the Papacy in 1623, the Barberini had been principally a Tuscan family, and although Maffeo had been active as a patron of the arts in Rome when a Cardinal, the family's activities as collectors in Rome do not predate the seicento; it is therefore unlikely, though not impossible, that the present picture was commissioned by them, or bought by them when the artist was still in Italy, and more likely that it was acquired in the 1620s or '30s in Rome.  

The number 'F:57' painted in the lower left corner dates from circa 1816 in relation to an inheritance dispute then in progress, and 'F' stands for Fidecomesso.11 According to the Decree of 26 April 1934 (a law specific to the Barberini collection), only those objects listed with a 'x' after the number were not permitted to be sold. Under its terms, the state acquired a number of art works in exchange for renouncing the right to enforce the Fidecommesso, and a remission of taxes.12 About one third of the collection passed to the state. Of the remaining two thirds that remained in the possession of the family, one part was subject to the usual Italian cultural heritage laws, while the remainder was free to be sold and exported. Of the list of paintings those in this latter category, including this one, were listed without a 'x'. Many of them were dispersed and are today in private and public collections in Europe and North America.

The Castellani was a dynastic family of goldsmiths spanning the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, who were also collectors and art dealers, principally of antiquities and works of art. They had a close relationship with a number of Roman noble families, including the Barberini. Much of the family collection was given to the Italian state, and is displayed in a number of rooms in the Museo di Palazzo Venezia in Rome.

Herbert Girardet, who lived at Kettwig in the Ruhr, was one of the leading collectors of Dutch and Flemish paintings of the post-war generation in Germany. This was one of two Jan Brueghel marines on copper that he owned, which had come from the Barberini collection, also via the Castellani and De Boer. The other, a work dated 1599, was painted after Brueghel returned to Antwerp, and it depicts a definitively northern scene, with vessels flying Dutch flags, as if in the estuary of the Schelde (see fig. 1).13

1 The last record of Jan Brueghel in Rome is in 1594, but he is likely to have stayed there until 1595 before leaving for Milan at the insistence of Cardinal Borromeo.

2 Milan, Ambrosiana; Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza; see Ertz 2008–10, vol. II, pp. 571–74, nos 266 and 267, both reproduced.

3 See Ertz 2008–10, vol. III, pp. 313–15, no. 150, reproduced.

4 Munich, Alte Pinakothek; see Ertz 2008–10, vol. II, p. 486, no. 218, reproduced p. 487.  

5 Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts; see M. Sellink, Bruegel. The Complete Paintings, Drawings and Prints, Bruges 2007, p. 271, no. X3, reproduced.

6 Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum; see Sellink 2007, pp. 208, 210–11, nos 136 and 138, reproduced.

7 Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, and Rome, Galleria Doria Pamphilj; see Sellink 2007, p. 277, no. X9, reproduced and p. 275. no. X7, reproduced. The Seestürm may have been painted by Joos de Momper; Brueghel may have known it, or Momper may have known Brueghel's marines.

8 Raleigh, North Carolina, private collection; see Ertz, 2008–10, vol. II, pp. 652–53, no. 314, reproduced. This group of works is discussed at length by Klaus Ertz (Die Gemälde, 1979, pp. 28–41), who christened the Girardet painting the Kettwig Jonas.

9 Ertz 2008–10, vol. II, pp. 563–67, nos 262 and 263, both reproduced. 

10 All three in Munich, Alte Pinakothek; see Ertz, Die Gemälde, 1979, pp. 567, 572 and 576, nos 61, 91 and 111, reproduced figs. 9, 10 and 11.

11 Lavin 1975, p. 715.

12 L. Mochi Onori in L. Mochi Onori and R. Vodret, Masterpieces of the National Gallery of Art at Palazzo Barberini, English ed., Rome 2000, p. 12.

13 See Ertz 2008–10, vol. II, pp. 317–18, no. 151; also Vey 1970, no. 13, reproduced.

Jan Brueghel the Elder, Two Dutch Warships, signed and dated 1599. Oil on copper, 26 x 35 cm. Private collection.