Bartholomeus Breenbergh (Deventer 1598-1657 Amsterdam)
Property from a Private Collection
Bartholomeus Breenbergh (Deventer 1598-1657 Amsterdam)

Christ healing the blind

Details
Bartholomeus Breenbergh (Deventer 1598-1657 Amsterdam)
Christ healing the blind
signed and dated 'Breenbergh fecit. Ao 1653.' (lower left)
oil on panel
18 x 24 7/8 in. (45.5 x 63.2 cm.)
Provenance
Hendrik Muilman (1743-1812); his sale (†), Schley, Amsterdam, 12 April 1813, lot 28 (212 florins to Matthias Ignatius van Iperen), as 'Une riche ordonnance représentant le Christ guérissant les aveugles, sur la route de Jericho, en présence d'une multitude de spectateurs, en différents costumes; dans le lointain on voit des grandes édifices, des ruines et de hautes montagnes. Le tout est d';une touche rigeureuse d'un beau et fini.' ('A rich composition, showing Christ healing the blind on the way to Jericho, in the presence of a multitude of observers, in different robes; in the distance are large buildings, ruins and high mountains; everything is beautifully done, detailed and powerful.')

Lot Essay

This panel is an exceptional addition to Breenbergh’s oeuvre. Born in 1598 in Deventer, he is typically associated with the Dutch Italianates: he travelled to Rome, where he gained close knowledge of the work of Paul Bril, who was then the leading exponent of landscape painting in the city, and his early pictures are permeated by a use of southern light. He probably stayed around ten years in Italy, settling back in Amsterdam by the early 1630s, where he would develop his highly-refined style that is exemplified in this picture.
The wonderful turbaned figure at the centre of the composition can be compared to a similar character in his Landscape with the predication of Saint John (New York, Richard Feigen Collection), dated 1643, which Marcel Roethlisberger called ‘Breenbergh’s masterpiece’ (M. Roethlisberger, Bartholomeus Breenbergh. The Paintings, Berlin and New York, 1981, p. 80, no. 203), and which Eric Sluijter has suggested is part of a ‘dialogue’ between Breenbergh and Rembrandt (‘Breenbergh and Rembrandt in Dialogue’, Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art, 9, 1, Winter 2017, DOI: 10.5092/jhna.2017.9.1.8). Breenbergh included ancient circular structures, like that in the left background, in earlier pictures, but the one shown here seems more closely inspired by the two great mausoleums of Rome, those of Augustus and Hadrian.
The description of the picture and its measurements match precisely those of the Breenbergh included in the sale of Hendrik Muilman’s collection in 1813. Muilman was an Amsterdam banker and collector, who inherited a fortune on his father’s death in 1790. The family firm, Muilman & Soonen, was founded in 1727, and grew to be one of the leading firms on the Amsterdam stock exchange. Muilman’s collection has received surprisingly little attention when one considers the masterpieces it contained. It included two works by Vermeer, The Milkmaid (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum) and The Lacemaker (Paris, Musée du Louvre), as well as pictures by Pieter Saenraedam, Jan Steen and each of the leading Dutch Italianate and landscape artists of the seventeenth century. Muilman has been described as ‘a pioneer in his preference for a particular kind of Dutch art’ (C. van der Bas, ‘The Muilman Collection: the progressive taste of an eighteenth-century banking family’, Simiolus, vol. 32, nos. 2/3, 2006, p. 157). His cousin, Anna Muilman (1733-83) married John Julis Angerstein (1735-1823). It was Angerstein’s collection that formed the core of the National Gallery in London when it was founded in 1824.
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