Oil on Copper
Chronology : 1570-1599 1600-1609 1610-1619 1640-1649
1595 Jan Brueghel of Italy
2018 SOLD for £ 2M including premium
Pieter the Younger makes copies and re-interpretations from the works of their father. Jan prefers original themes and stays in Italy from 1590 to 1596, in Naples and then in Rome and Milan.
An oil on copper 26 x 35 cm painted by Jan in Italy, part of the cycle of Jonah, was sold for £ 1.07M including premium by Sotheby's in London on December 3, 2008. It comes in the same auction room on December 5, lot 11 estimated £ 1.8M. It is signed Brueghel and dated 1595.
This work from the youth of Jan voluntarily juxtaposes two contradictory lights, perhaps to exercise his know-how.
On the left, brightly lit by the sun, the coastal villages are inspired by the south of Italy. In the foreground, fishermen sell their catches. This scene as well as the animated beach a little further anticipates one of the favorite themes of the artist.
The rest of the picture is a marine in the darkness under a terrible stormy sky. In this space Jonah is thrown overboard from a small boat.
The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1596 Paradise Brueghel
2015 SOLD for $ 4M including premium
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.
1607 The Bouquets of Middelburg
2019 SOLD for $ 3M including premium
The tradition of Dürer's naturalistic image had been maintained at Nuremberg by Hans Hoffmann. Accompanying the craze for cabinets of curiosity, Hoefnagel gathered images of plants and small animals in disparate and didactic alignments that somewhat evoke the insect boxes of our modern entomologists.
The island town of Middelburg in Zeeland had a strong cultural and scientific activity including an important botanical garden. In 1593 Bosschaert is identified as a member of the local guild of Saint Luke. His earliest dated paintings, in 1605, are full-page images in the style of Hoefnagel.
Bosschaert and Brueghel invent the painting of bouquets in a vase in 1606. Working for Cardinal Borromeo but residing in Antwerp, Brueghel paints opulent accumulations mixing flowers of all seasons.
Bosschaert paints simpler arrangements on copper in small format. In this early phase we must not look for a specific meaning behind each flower. It must instead be considered that the cultivation of ornamental flowers, imported from the East and modified by skillful hybridizers, is considered as a top luxury in the Netherlands of his time. Ambitious and aware of the importance of his art, Bosschaert signs with a monogram AB imitating the AD of Dürer.
On January 30 in New York, Sotheby's sells an oil on copper 24 x 18 cm painted by Bosschaert in 1607, lot 26 estimated $ 2.5M. With other flowers in a similar composition, an oil on copper of the same period was sold for CHF 5.8M including premium by Koller on September 19, 2008. The technique on copper allows a great naturalistic precision.
1608 Flowers in an Oil on Copper by Bosschaert
2008 SOLD 5.8 MCHF including premium
Its author, Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, is so named today to distinguish him from his son Ambrosius. The latter, and the Elder's two other sons Abraham and Johannes, also painted still lifes, but the best known of the family is perhaps Balthasar van der Ast, brother-in-law and pupil of the elder Ambrosius.
On 10 July 2002, Sotheby's achieved good results on works by these painters. A bouquet in a window, oil on copper of 28 x 23 cm by Ambrosius the Elder and typical of his work, had been sold £ 2.1 million charge included. The same day, an oval oil on copper of 1624 by Balthasar has almost reached 950 K £.
With a composition very similar as the copper to be sold by Koller, another oil on copper, by Ambrosius the Elder, 30 x 20 cm, was sold £ 1.75 million by Sotheby's in London in July 2000. It was on my taste more interesting than the Koller's, because the flowers were more numerous and less dispersed. In both works, the glass is almost identical.
It derives from these figures that the estimate given by Koller, 2.5 MCHF, is ambitious, but the auction house announced that the painting is in exceptional condition, after being kept for 150 years in the same collection.
POST SALE COMMENTS
Koller got a good result on these flowers by Bosschaert: 5 MCHF excluding charges, twice the low estimate.
This article will have a following:
A bouquet in a niche by Balthasar van der Ast, 48 x 36 cm, is the lot 16 of the sale of Zürichsee Auktionen in Erlenbach on September 24 (estimated 500 KCHF). As I said in the article above, Balthasar was the brother in law of Ambrosius Bosschaert.
Balthasar's painting was not sold.
1608 Intimate Coppers by Wtewael
2019 SOLD for £ 4.6M including premium
The available iconography is abundant, including the risque engravings of Goltzius often copied from Spranger. A fashion is to intimate closets, predecessors to the boudoirs. Until about 1612, Wtewael provides his clients with small copper paintings that are not intended to be displayed in public and could even be hidden in the binding of a book. In parallel his larger formats on canvas or wood are more suitable.
Nude groups are inspired by mythology. The Mannerist eroticism that lengthens the bodies of the women suits his purpose. He often reworks the same themes, seeking to improve the readability. For his most complex miniatures, he organizes the action in several fields with differences in brightness.
Wtewael takes care that each god of the Olympus is identifiable by an attribute, even within the crowd of a banquet. With characters ranging from the lustful Venus to the chaste Diana, he is definitely more of an entertainer than a moralist. He spent his entire career in his hometown where he became a rich flax fiber merchant. He did not manage a workshop and did not have an apprentice.
On July 3 in London, Sotheby's sells Diana and Actaeon, oil on copper 16 x 21 cm painted in 1608, lot 14 estimated £ 4M. Please watch the video in which Sotheby's compares its workmanship with the monumental Magdalene by Johann Liss previously discussed in this column.
This extremely narrative scene shows the moment when Diana had just sent her spell to the hunter. She is identified by the crescent moon above her head. Now that the risk is neutralized, these ladies resume their activities as if nothing had happened, displaying in full light their quiet nudity.
For Actaeon, nothing works anymore. His tall silhouette in the dim light is already head dressed with stag antlers. His dogs are agitated. A few moments later, when the metamorphosis will be complete, they will devour him.
#AuctionUpdate The Thrill of the Hunt □: Another auction record! Joachim Anthonisz. Wtewael’s exquisite little copper panel, reviving the most dramatic moment in the myth of Diana and Actaeon, hits a bullseye at £4,634,000. #SothebysOldMasters pic.twitter.com/EJULAAQz8r— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) July 3, 2019
1602-1612 Olympian Delight
2019 SOLD for $ 6M including premium
Bartholomäus Spranger painted such themes for the emperor Rudolf II. In Haarlem, Hendrik Goltzius widely distributes these images by his engravings and adds new themes in his own paintings. The Mannerist style brings strength to the muscular bodies of men and a charming lasciviousness in the elongated bodies of women. Cupid excites everyone.
A contemporary of Goltzius, Joachim Wtewael makes his whole career in Utrecht where he is a founding member of the local guild of Saint Luke. He is also a rich merchant of flax fiber and does not need to operate a full workshop. The rarer spelling Uytewael better helps to pronounce his name.
Wtewael painted on canvas, panel or copper according to the desired formats. Curiously, he uses copper for the most complex themes, with a host of characters in various positions. These mythological scenes thus become an anthology of his little stories in which he displays a free life, sometimes even up to the carnal relation. As for pictural style, he however does not influence his countrymen the truculent Caravaggisti of Utrecht.
On January 30 in New York, Sotheby's sells a Banquet of the Gods, oil on copper 16 x 20 cm, lot 53 estimated $ 5M. On this very small format Wtewael has staged about fifty characters in gradual registers from earth to clouds, with the high precision in details allowed by the metallic polishing.
In the foreground Mars and Venus occupy the place of honor. The groups interact subtly : Cupid's arrow and Minerva's spear are directed outside their own groups. Some of these characters complacently offer their nudity to their partner. Bright blue spots of clothing bring an interesting chromatic balance in the forefront. Vulcan was not invited.
This work is similar to several opus on the theme of the Wedding of Peleus and Thetis. By the clarity of the composition, it is later than the version of 1602. It precedes a better version painted in 1612.
The Banquet of the Gods is directly inspired from an engraving by Goltzius based on a drawing by Spranger. Also after Goltzius, Mars and Venus surprised by Vulcan, oil on copper 18 x 14 cm painted by Wtewael in 1610, was sold for £ 4.6M including premium by Christie's on July 3, 2012 over a lower estimate of £ 2M.
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's : a detailed view of this painting, including the straight path of Cupid's arrow up to a naked female breast !
1610-1615 Adam and Eve by Wtewael
2011 SOLD for $ 6.2M including premium by Sotheby's
1610 Bucolic Harmony by Jan Brueghel
2018 SOLD for £ 3.6M including premium
He thus continues the tradition of the Weltlandschaft by which his predecessors had composed imaginary landscapes which served as models for the backgrounds of the narrative scenes. All the elements are carefully structured : the busy road, the wide river, the vast countryside where villages and chapels nestle, and the mountain on the horizon.
He is one of the best artists of his time, with a palette of vivid and varied colors. On the road the animation responds to a catalog of motifs including travelers, horses, cattle, dogs and wagons. Compared to the classic Weltlandschaft, he takes a lower viewpoint that highlights the picturesque scene in the foreground.
Many of these views are painted on small copper plates with a bright impasto. One of the largest, 53 x 72 cm, signed Brueghel and dated 1610, was sold for $ 2.03M including premium by Sotheby's on June 1, 1990. It is estimated £ 3M for sale by Christie's in London on December 6, lot 23.
#AuctionUpdate Regarded as one of the most significant landscapes by the artist to come to market in recent decades, 'An extensive wooded landscape' by #JanBreugheltheElder realises £3,608,750 this evening. #Christies #OldMasters pic.twitter.com/RiVwHRx6QC— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) December 6, 2018
1612 Roelandt Savery at the Court of Rudolf II
2012 SOLD 5.4 MCHF including premium
He is also one of the first artists to show still lifes of flowers. According to a design that will be copied many times, he arranges them as a tight bouquet in a vase located in a niche. Small reptiles and insects animate the scene.
Such a bouquet in a small oil on copper, 13.5 x 17 cm, dated 1612, is estimated CHF 2.8 million, for sale by Koller in Zurich on March 30. Here is the link to the catalogue.
This painting had been sold £ 1.76 million including premium by Sotheby's on 12 July 2001.
POST SALE COMMENT
Excellent price for this interesting painting despite its small size: CHF 4.7 million before fees, 5.4 million including premium.
This auction house often gets great results on old painting. In September 2008, a bouquet painted in 1608 by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder had been sold for CHF 5.8 million including premium.
1616 Village Feast with the Artist
2008 SOLD 3.5 M£ including premium
Jan Brueghel is one of the very best Flemish painters and his themes are of the greatest variety. He imagined very early in his career the scenery and characters in Paradise. He had the good idea to transpose this theme to the peasant life, freed in his art from the moralizing intentions of his father Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
His landscapes are probably imaginary. They have very balanced compositions built around the turning of a road or a river or even both. The technique of oil on copper enables pure and warm colors.
One of his scenes of a feast near the village certainly expresses a personal emotion of the artist. This 26 x 38 cm painting dated 1616 was sold for £ 3.5M including premium by Sotheby's on July 9, 2008. It is estimated £ 5.5M for sale by Christie's in London on July 6, lot 42. I described it as follows in 2008 :
The landscape at the turn of a river is pleasant with a varied animation. Couples of peasants are dancing in the middle of the road between two rows of well-aligned spectators. A merchant sells his fish and two bourgeois are discussing. The catalog tells us that one of the bourgeois is a very rare self-portrait of the artist, confirming the importance that this happy theme had for him.
The distant animation is also intense. Nice boats are sailing on the river. In the upper left the village is populated by characters with horses and carriages. In the foreground two dogs are gently waiting.
1621 Christian Virtues in Bosschaert's Flowers
2012 SOLD 1.7 M€ including premium
Ambrosius Bosschaert was a contemporary of Rubens in Antwerp who moved to Holland and developed a theme that was new at that time, the arrangements of flowers in a vase on a table. Helped by several members of his family, he made it a thriving business.
The times were favorable. At the other end of Europe, Rudolf II was assembling his cabinet of curiosities to understand the mysteries of life.
The flowers composing the brilliant art of Bosschaert are always in great variety, in order to gather as many as possible of these symbols of the Christian virtues that oppose the sins. The butterfly is ephemeral and the empty shellis ready for the resurrection.
On September 19, 2008, Koller sold CHF 5.8 million including premium an oil on copper dated 1608, 23 x 18 cm.
An oil on copper of much greater dimensions, 34 x 23 cm, is for sale in Paris by Gros et Delettrez on June 1. The date, difficult to read, is certainly 1621, the year of the premature death of the artist.
Small misses are announced in the catalog. They may explain the estimate, € 600K, which otherwise might seem too low.