Jan Brueghel the Elder
Brussels 1568 – 1625 Antwerp
Country Landscape with Travelers
oil on copper
5 x 7 inches
12.8 x 17.8 cm
Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625) was the son the great Pieter Brueghel the Elder, but in his own day was equally famous. In 1590 he travelled to Italy and visited Milan at the insistence of the notable art patron Cardinal Federico Borromeo, for whom he painted a series of landscapes still in the Ambrosiana today. He was court painter to the regents of the Netherlands, the archdukes Albert and Isabella and was also patronised by the emperor Rudolf II in Prague and King Sigismond III of Poland. He frequently collaborated with other artists including Rubens and his followers.
Brueghel’s earlier work shows the influence of his father’s peasant subject matter, though his technique is different with more emphasis on fine detail. Sometimes he painted infernal scenes in the tradition of Heironymous Bosch and he was celebrated for his flower still lives which were very full and elaborate and included a vast array of flowers painted from drawn studies, not all of which bloomed in the same season.
The present work is typical of a large segment of his production, rural landscapes of the Flemish countryside. In these, there is no hint of trouble or strife and many show country folk from gentry to peasants going about their daily business, as in the present work. The church is a comparative rarity in his landscapes and may have been included at the request of the patron. It has been dated by Dr. Ertz to circa 1610, when his style was beginning to be more relaxed with lessening light and shade contrasts typical of late mannerist taste in favor of a more unified atmosphere, a trend continued in his later work and in the landscapes of his son Jan Brueghel the Younger. ❖
with Johnny van Haeften Ltd, London, by 2008
Klaus Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere (1568-1625), Kritischer Katalog der Gemälde, Band I Landschaften mit profanen Themen, Lingen, 2008, no. 174.