PIETER BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGER (BRUSSELS 1564-1638 ANTWERP)
PIETER BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGER (BRUSSELS 1564-1638 ANTWERP)
PIETER BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGER (BRUSSELS 1564-1638 ANTWERP)
1 More
PIETER BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGER (BRUSSELS 1564-1638 ANTWERP)
4 More
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED DUTCH COLLECTION
PIETER BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGER (BRUSSELS 1564-1638 ANTWERP)

Allegory of Spring

Details
PIETER BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGER (BRUSSELS 1564-1638 ANTWERP)
Allegory of Spring
oil on panel
16 1/8 x 22 ¾ in. (41 x 57.8 cm.)
Provenance
C. M. Collection; Frederik Muller & Cie, Amsterdam, 29 June 1920, lot 35 (2,500 guilders), where acquired by the great-grandfather of the present owners.
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Maja Markovic
Maja Markovic Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay


In the collection of the family of the present owners since 1920, this previously unpublished work is a version of one of Pieter Breughel the Younger’s most pleasing subjects. Originally conceived as part of a set of Four Seasons, Spring proved to be immensely popular and is known today in around twenty autograph versions, with dated examples from 1622 to 1635 (see K. Ertz, Pieter Brueghel der Jungere, Lingen, 2000, II, pp. 589-593, nos. E603-621). Despite the proliferation of versions, the composition has only rarely appeared on the open market in recent times, with just two examples appearing at auction in the last 20 years: a version that featured with a complete set of Seasons sold Christie’s, London, 7 July 2016, lot 6 (£6,466,500 - for the four); and another sold at Sotheby’s, New York, 6 June 2013, lot 29 ($2,285,000).

The idea of creating four separate, stand-alone images to represent the Four Seasons was conceived by his father, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525-1569), one of the greatest innovators in the history of Western art. His enterprising and successful publisher, Hieronymus Cock (1518-1570), whose Antwerp publishing house ‘House of the Four Winds’ was the most important and renowned in Northern Europe, commissioned designs for prints of the Four Seasons from Bruegel in circa 1564, with his drawing for Spring, signed and dated 1565, now in the Albertina, Vienna (fig. 1). Bruegel’s untimely death in 1569 prevented his completion of the series, and the project was taken over by Hans Bol (1534-1593), another leading landscape artist of that time. Cock’s prints were finally published in 1570, and swiftly became widely known. Pieter the Younger, who was only a child when his father died, but who would champion his style and iconography in the next generation, was not the first artist to make paintings derived from Cock’s Four Seasons, yet his delicate treatment of the designs is the closest in spirit to his father’s original vision.

Spring is depicted as a formal flower garden, presumably part of a noble estate. Marlier notes the expression of Italianate figural types of the High Renaissance in Pieter the Elder’s design, doubtless influenced by his trip to Italy, with Charles de Tolnay pointing out a debt to Michelangelo in the figure of the gardener at the right foreground, echoing the pose of Noah in one of the panels of the Sistine Chapel ceiling (see G. Marlier, Pierre Brueghel le Jeune, Brussels, 1969, p. 219). Suggesting that the activities in the foreground belong to the month of March, Marlier argues that the formal layout of the garden is French in origin, ‘un jardin à la française, d'une ordonnance strictement géométrique ... parterres qu’on arrose, ratisse, égalise et où l’on plante des fleurs et des graines’ ('a French garden, strictly geometrically ordered... beds watered, raked, levelled and planted with flowers and seeds'), while those of the middle ground belong to April, and those in the background, to May (ibid.).

Spring was evidently one of the more frequently requested seasons from Pieter the Younger as an individual painting. In the certificate for the painting by Dr. Klaus Ertz, dated 27 February 2018, confirming the attribution after first-hand examination, Dr. Ertz rates the present work among the most well preserved versions, evident in elements such as the smoothly handled impasto highlights of the tree blossoms. While noting the impossibility of a chronology between the undated works, he distinguishes particularities such as the number of flowers planted in the borders, the branching of the trees, the varied planting of the flower pots, the roof designs and a myriad of other details evident to the attentive observer.

More from Old Masters Part I

View All
View All