Oil on Copper
Chronology : 1570-1599 1600-1609 1610-1619
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.
1606 Still Life of Flowers by Jan Brueghel
Tastes change. Religious wars bring a political suspicion towards religious themes. In Prague Rudolf II prefers the observation of nature to his political commitments. Hoefnagel draws and paints for that emperor some collections of flowers and animals.
Borromeo desired a representation of blossoms in the whole variety of their shapes and colors for brightening his living throughout the year, so enjoying nature even outside the blooming period.
Brueghel's artistic process is documented by his 1606 letters to Borromeo while a prototype painting was in progress.
After choosing the varieties of the flowers, he had to wait for their blossoming which was not simultaneous, in spring and summer. Each bloom in its full glorious development was added in its turn on the copper in a pre-defined position. They were drawn from nature without an intermediary drawing. In his quest for exactness he had also travelled to Brussels to observe some blossoms which were not available in Antwerp.
The referred masterpiece is now kept at the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
It is an oil on copper 65 x 45 cm, a very large size for this technique at that time. The great variety of brilliant colors met the expectation of the cardinal. The overcrowding of the flowers in the vase is unrealistic : it is an artistic trick to escape the didactic alignments of Hoefnagel. Brueghel's intention was not mystical or scientific. He desired to compare the beauty of the flowers to that of gemstones and paid the utmost attention to colors and light. He was obviously happy with his achievement.
The major picture from the next year 1607 is now kept at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. It is a 51 x 40 cm oil on panel, the best technique after the copper for the precision of the brushwork and the conservation of the pigments, less demanding in terms of skills. Customers were appealed by this novelty and Brueghel certainly painted a few panels in parallel.
A large oil on oak panel 67 x 51 cm was sold for £ 3.85M by Sotheby's on July 6, 2016, lot 11. It is a slightly later development with a looser and more pleasing arrangement of the flowers, dated circa 1608 by experts. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The artist gave up soon although not before 1611 the painting of flowers by direct observation and these early works will then serve as modelli. The goal remains decorative. Other artists will add the use of flowers and small animals as symbols and also the arrangements inside wreaths.
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 Mars and Venus surprised by Vulcan by Wtewael
2012 SOLD for £ 4.6M including premium by Christie's
1610-1615 Adam and Eve by Wtewael
2011 SOLD for $ 6.2M including premium by Sotheby's
1610 Wooded Landscape by Jan Brueghel
2018 SOLD for £ 3.6M by Christie's
He thus continues the tradition of the Weltlandschaft by which his predecessors such as Patinir and met de Bles 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 £ 3.6M by Christie's on December 6, 2018, lot 23. A Summer landscape with tilt carts, oil on copper 25 x 37.5 cm painted in 1612 by Jan Brueghel, was sold for $ 2M by Christie's on January 25, 2023, lot 123.
The nickname Fluwelen Brueghel often used to designate Jan the elder is consistent with the exquisite atmosphere and light of that series of paintings.
#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.
1613 Garden of Eden by Jan Brueghel
2014 SOLD for £ 6.8M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2021
One of his sponsors is the young cardinal Federico Borromeo. He is inspired by Filippo Neri, the apostle of the Counter-Reformation who advocates a joyful Christianity and sees the glory of God in the diversity of nature. Jan Brueghel's scenes of Paradise combine a wide variety of animals in an idyllic landscape with direct reference to Genesis.
Such a mystical perception of nature also inspires botanists and zoologists, who publish catalogs of species. Jan's invention around 1608 of painting bouquets with a wide variety of flowers was an epistolary suggestion from his friend the cardinal.
From 1612 to 1615, Jan takes up the theme of Paradise, with a more pleasant distribution of the elements. He saw the exotic animals of the Archduke's menagerie and compared his observations with the very innovative Rubens, with whom he was collaborating occasionally since 1598.
On July 9, 2014, Sotheby's sold at lot 19 for £ 6.8M including premium from a lower estimate of £ 2M a Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man, oil on copper 24 x 37 cm painted in 1613.
The left part is animated in the foreground by the royal animals, a pair of lions and a magnificent gray horse. Domestic and exotic quadrupeds and birds are distributed throughout the rest of the image. The Fall of Man, which justifies the Biblical context, is the picking of the apple. Adam and Eve are two tiny figures in the distance, painted in great fineness at a strong point of the image between the head of the horse and the beak of an ostrich.
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.
1648 Ham Lunch by Teniers
2019 SOLD for £ 4.7M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Born into a family of artists, David Teniers the younger was influenced by Brouwer. He got closer to Jan Brueghel the elder whose daughter he married in 1637. Throughout his career, Teniers was a very prolific artist in various themes of the genre scene animated by many characters.
Jan Brueghel was one of the best painters in oil on copper, which combines the sharpness of the stroke and the beauty of the colors. His son-in-law also adopts this practice by using increasingly large formats which allow a multitude of details to be easily introduced, often with humor.
The Ham Lunch, oil on copper 63 x 85 cm painted by Teniers in 1648, was sold for £ 4.7M including premium by Christie's on July 4, 2019 from a lower estimate of £ 800K, lot 15. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
Teniers liked the compositions in several stages. The Ham Lunch displays two rooms in an inn. In the foreground, the old timers are seated to eat a ham. Two men watch while smoking their pipe. In the back room, young people dance in tight groups to the sound of the bagpipes.
The animation and the diversity of attitudes take precedence over the caricatured features of the portraits. For example, one of the young dancers allows herself to be kissed by her partner while another, more shy, does not trust a merry fellow. The artist has nailed his self-portrait above the fireplace.
A 70 x 88 cm oil on copper painted in 1651, showing in Rubens' garden an elegant company which includes the artist and his wife, was sold for £ 1.57M including premium by Sotheby's on December 6, 2017 from a lower estimate of £ 800K. lot 43.