JAN BRUEGHEL I (BRUSSELS 1568-1625 ANTWERP)
JAN BRUEGHEL I (BRUSSELS 1568-1625 ANTWERP)
JAN BRUEGHEL I (BRUSSELS 1568-1625 ANTWERP)
JAN BRUEGHEL I (BRUSSELS 1568-1625 ANTWERP)
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JAN BRUEGHEL I (BRUSSELS 1568-1625 ANTWERP)

A landscape with herdsmen driving cattle to a village

Details
JAN BRUEGHEL I (BRUSSELS 1568-1625 ANTWERP)
A landscape with herdsmen driving cattle to a village
oil on copper
8 1/8 x 10 7/8 in. (20.5 x 27.5 cm.)
Provenance
Private collection, Europe, where acquired by the present owner circa 2000.

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Jonquil O’Reilly
Jonquil O’Reilly Specialist, Head of Part I

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Lot Essay

Datable to circa 1600, this early landscape by Jan Brueghel I is striking testimony to the degree to which the young painter succeeded in transforming his father Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s style into a distinctive miniaturist idiom. The composition is based on Pieter the Elder’s The Return of the Herd from 1565, which represents the months of October and November and was one of six paintings depicting the months of the year presumably commissioned by the banker and art collector Nicolaes Jonghelinck (fig. 1; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna).

In the first two decades of the seventeenth century, Jan returned time and again to landscape compositions that juxtaposed a close-up view of figures along a country road in the foreground with a panoramic vista beyond, the two of which were frequently separated, as here, by a precipitous drop in elevation. As is typical of his earliest forays into this type of landscape, Jan makes dazzling use of the high vantage-point and panoramic perspective with a seemingly limitless horizon that characterized the Weltlandschaft tradition of earlier artists like Joachim Patinir and Herri met de Bles. The illusion of deeply receding space is brought about by subtle modulations of color from the earthen brown foreground, to the green midground and crisp bluish hues of the background. Jan further introduced passages of local color, most evident in the warm reds and bright blues of his figure’s clothing. The brilliance of his palette and delicacy of his execution earned him the sobriquet ‘Velvet Brueghel’.

Though stripped of the allegorical associations of Pieter the Elder’s painting, Jan nevertheless succeeds in creating a palpable sense of seasonality in this work. The largely bare branches of the foreground trees and gray, cloud-filled sky leave little doubt that this is a crisp autumn day. Herdsmen equally drive cattle from their summer pastures toward one of the two humble structures in the middle ground as a means of protecting and keeping the herd warm in winter. The prevailing mood is one in which man, animal and nature interact harmoniously with one another.

Dr. Klaus Ertz has previously examined this work at firsthand and endorses the attribution to Jan Brueghel I. A copy of his certificate is available upon request.
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