Lot 68
  • 68

JAN BRUEGHEL THE ELDER | A wooded landscape with peasants crossing the river

500,000 - 700,000 USD
555,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Follower of Jan Brueghel, circa 1700
  • A wooded landscape with peasants crossing the river
  • signed and dated lower left: Brueghel / 1613
  • oil on copper
Oil on copper


Anonymous sale, London, Christie's 7 July 2000, lot 2 (as attributed to Jan Brueghel the Elder);
With Richard Green, London;
From whom acquired by the present owner.


K. Ertz and C. Nitze-Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere, vol. I, Lingen 2008–2010, pp. 308-309, cat. no. 147, reproduced in color. 

Catalogue Note

This small copper depicts a charming village alongside a canal, a subject that Jan Brueghel the Elder first developed and explored around 1602.  The painting is defined by vibrant colors, glazes, and thick impasto.  A lightness of touch and unwavering confidence further contributes to the captivating jewel-like effect so prized in works by this major Flemish master, and it is not difficult to understand why Brueghel’s popularity has endured over the centuries.

From a slightly elevated viewpoint, Brueghel opens a window onto early seventeenth century Flemish life, notably the daily life of a village nestled on the edge of a canal on a clear, crisp day.  A calm body of water, upon which float a few vessels, fills the entire foreground. Beyond the foreground, the composition is cleverly divided by a group of towering, lush trees and forest that fill the majority of the composition. The left half of the scene is defined by a group of villagers gathered near the landing stage, as well as a well-traveled pathway that pulls the eye past a row of houses and into the depths of the woods. By contrast, the right half of the composition is nearly devoid of figures and the wooded path is replaced by a gently bubbling stream filled with a few ducks and other birds. This stream meanders beside a lush forest and a towered fortress, looming over a wooden bridge, and seems to unfold into a larger body of water, whose silvery blue tone also draws the audience to further explore the depths of the scene.

What adds another degree of grandeur to this multi-figure composition is the attention with which Brueghel has observed and captured not only the natural world around him, but also the minutia of the everyday, a pictorial device achieved through his use of the smooth copper support. Brueghel executed more compositions on copper than any of his contemporaries using the same support. The copper plate does not absorb the paint and, more so than on canvas or panel, individual brushstrokes stand up on the smooth surface. This allowed Brueghel to display his masterful brushwork, which is all the more impressive on such a small scale.