Jan Brueghel made a long stay in Italy at the time when Baroque succeeded Mannerism. He obtained the patronage of the very young Cardinal Federico Borromeo who became archbishop of Milan in 1595. More intellectual than theologian, Cardinal Borromeo will be in 1609 the founder of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana.
Inspired by the art and landscapes of Italy, Jan Brueghel painted around 1594 his first views of Paradise, with flexible design and pleasant colors. Certainly conceived to appeal the Cardinal, they show the variety of the animals in their heavenly vicinity, in a loose interpretation of Creation and Ark. Paradise will remain one of his favorite themes throughout his career.
On January 29 in New York, Sotheby's sells an oil on copper 27 x 36 cm, lot 54 estimated $ 3.5M. Dated 1596, this painting was probably made before Jan returned to Flanders in the same year.
The scene is loaded with symbols. The gentle animals are divided between the foreground and the ark where all will find a place. Wise travelers walk in the same direction. In the background of the scene, the festive village of sinners is a sequel to the moral style of the artist's father.