Circle of Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637 Antwerp)
Circle of Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637 Antwerp)

The Battle between Carnival and Lent

Circle of Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637 Antwerp)
The Battle between Carnival and Lent
oil on oak panel
27 7/8 x 41 in. (70.9 x 104.1 cm.)
Weber collection, Hamburg, before 1926.
J.E. Weber, Hamburg; Fiévez, Brussels, 7 July 1926, lot 98, as 'Pieter Huys'.
Baron Evence III Coppée (1882-1945), Belgium, and by descent to the present owner.
J. Decoen, ‘Cinq siècles d’Art à l’Éxposition de Bruxelles’, Clarté: art et art décoratif, July 1935, p. 8, illustrated, as attributed to Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
H. Swarzwenski, Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, XLIX, February 1951, pp. 5 and 8-9, fig. 6, as a copy after Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
G. Marlier, ed. J. Folie, Pierre Brueghel le Jeune, Brussels, 1969, p. 308, fig. 183, as ‘Pieter Brueghel II’.
M. Wilmotte, Catalogue de la collection Coppée, Liége, 1991, pp. 58-61, illustrated.
K. Ertz, Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere (1564-1637/38): Die Gemälde, mit kritischem OEuvrekatalog, Lingen, 2000, I, pp. 248 and 254-5, no. A190*, illustrated, as ‘abzuschreiben’ (by an unknown follower of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, painted in the early seventeenth century), II, p. 974, notes 276 and 277.
Tokyo, Tobu Museum of Art, The World of Bruegel. The Coppée Collection and Eleven International Museums, 28 March-25 June 1995, no. B32.

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Abbie Barker
Abbie Barker

Lot Essay

This famous composition, which isolates the central figures invented by Pieter Bruegel the Elder for his large-scale Battle between Carnival and Lent of 1559 (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum), exists in eight versions, of which this is one of the best preserved. Long a highlight of the famous Coppée collection, it has been attributed variously to Pieter Huys, Pieter Bruegel the Elder or his son Pieter Brueghel the Younger, while other versions have also been linked to Marten van Cleve, Pieter Balten or Jan Brueghel the Elder. Curiously, all of these versions have shared elements which are not present in Pieter the Elder’s great Battle, nor in the numerous large-scale derivations of it by Pieter the Younger. Specifically, the supporting cast of characters grouped behind the personifications of Carnival, on the left hand, and Lent, on the right hand, include figures absent from the large-scale version, while others are differently attired. The two eerie, hooded penitents on the right, for example, do not occur in this position in any of the large-scale Battles. A drawing in the Ashmolean Museum, showing Carnival and his retinue, also relates exclusively to the smaller type of Battle between Carnival and Lent (see Swarzenski, op. cit., fig. 7). The fine version in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has been catalogued as ‘Workshop of Pieter Bruegel, the Elder’, while one in the Stedelijk Museum Vanderkelen Mertens, Leuven, may be an autograph version by Marten van Cleve (c. 1527-before 1581). The subject ultimately goes back to Hieronymus Bosch, whose own, very different treatment is lost, but known from copies (including that in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, dated to c. 1600-1620).

Dendrochronological analysis of the panel suggests that this work was painted in the first third of the seventeenth century. One of the constituent boards comes from a tree which also supplied material for two previously analysed panels, one painted by the Antwerp artist Osias Beert (c. 1580-1624), the other by Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625) or his workshop. We are grateful to Dr. Ian Tyers for this information; this lot is sold with a copy of the dendrochronological report by Dr. Tyers, dated October 2015.

The collection of the industrialist Baron Evence III Coppée (1882-1945) was formed in Brussels between 1920 and 1939. The focus was on sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Flemish painting, with a special emphasis on the work of Pieter Brueghel the Younger, whom Coppée much admired for his treatment of humanist themes. In all, he owned nine works by the artist, a group that set the example for many later collectors of Brueghel in Belgium. Much of the collection, including the present lot, was proudly displayed in the beautiful Coppée mansion on the Avenue Franklin D. Roosevelt, Brussels.

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