1 More
4 More

The Last Judgement

The Last Judgement
signed and dated '·BRUEGHEL 1601·' (lower left)
oil on copper
14 1⁄8 x 10 ½ in. (27 x 36 cm.)
(Probably) Cardinal Benedetto Giustiniani (1554-1621), Palazzo Giustiniani, S. Luigi dei Francesi, Rome, where first recorded soon after 1601 in the ‘Guardarobba’ inventory, no. 91, as ‘uno del Giuditio’ (see Literature).
(Probably) William Williams of Aberpergwm (1788-1855), Aberpergwm House, Vale of Neath, and by descent to his son,
Morgan Stuart Williams (1846-1909), St. Donat's Castle, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, and by descent to his son,
Godfrey Herbert Joseph Williams (1875-1956), St. Donat's Castle, until its sale in 1922, where the pictures were recorded; Christie’s, London, 4 October 1946, lot 115, with ‘The Fall of the Damned’ and ‘The Deluge’ (three in the lot), where acquired for 190 gns. by the following,
with Edward Speelman, London, from whom all three were acquired in December 1946 by the following,
with P. de Boer, Amsterdam, from whom acquired, with ‘The Fall of the Damned’, in August 1947, for 2,500 florins by,
Comte Jean de Bousies (1899-1966), Brussels; his sale, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 24 March 1953, lot 7, sold with ‘The Fall of the Damned’.
Private collection, Belgium, from which acquired by the present owner.
(Possibly) ‘Entrata della Guadarobba‘ of Benedetto Giustiniani, 1600, Archivo di Stato di Roma, Fondo Giustiniani, busta 15, fol. 1054, nos. 91-92, ‘Doi quadri di rame di mano di Brugo con cornice di ebbano uno del Giuditio et uno del diluio’ (reproduced in Squarzina, op. cit., p. 781, nos. 91-2).
(Possibly) Posthumous inventory of Benedetto Giustiniani, lnventarium bonorum bonae memoriae illustrissimi et reverendissimi Domini Cardinalis Benedicti lustiniani, 31 March 1621, Archivo di Stato di Roma, Notai del tribunale AC, fol. 1409r, no. 244, ‘Un giuditio in rame, quadro piccolo,figure piccole, con cornice d'ebbano’ (reproduced in Squarzina, op. cit., p. 790, no. 244).
K. Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere (1568-1625), die Gemälde: mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Cologne, 1979, pp. 77, 119, 125-6, no. 81, fig. 129.
(Possibly) S. D. Squarzina, ‘The collections of Cardinal Benedetto Giustiniani. Part I’, The Burlington Magazine, CXXXIX, no. 1136, November 1997, pp. 781 and 790, nos. 91-2 and 244.
K. Ertz and C. Nitze-Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere (1568-1625): Kritischer Katalog der Gemälde, II, Lingen, 2008, pp. 661-3, no. 322, illlustrated.

Brought to you by

Maja Markovic
Maja Markovic Director, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Beautifully preserved and unseen since the early 1960s, this is Jan Brueghel the Elder’s prime treatment of The Last Judgement - perhaps his most overtly religious work - better known until now by virtue of two inferior versions: a replica in the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, and another sold at Sotheby’s, London, 6 December 2007, lot 151, as ‘Studio of Jan Brueghel the Elder’.

Brueghel spent the first half of the 1590s in Italy and it was in Rome, where he lived between 1592 and 1594, that he met Cardinal Frederico Borromeo who was to become a lifelong friend and patron. While it is tempting to cite Italian examples, most notably Michelangelo’s Last Judgement, as the inspiration for the present work, it is in fact closely based on a larger, upright work of 1598 by another northern artist, Hans Rottenhammer (Munich, Alte Pinakothek; see fig. 1). The two artists befriended each other in Rome and collaborated on a number of works together. Rottenhammer’s Last Judgement is first recorded in Antwerp by circa 1626 when it appears in the famous collection of Cornelis van der Gheest, but, as Elizabeth Honig has pointed out, it must have arrived soon after it was painted in time for Brueghel to have seen it in Antwerp before 1601 (see E. Honig, Jan Breughel – Complete Catalog, online, Maryland University, 2021).

Honig has argued that this picture provides the only possible extant match with a work of the same subject – a ‘Giuditio’ by Jan Brueghel the Elder recorded by Alfonso Amoretti, soon after 1601, in the inventory of the collection of Cardinal Benedetto Giustiniani (1554-1621) in Rome (see Squarzina, op. cit., pp. 766-791). The inventory lists six Brueghel paintings on copper in related pairs, the ‘Giuditio’ twinned with a ‘Diluvio’. Whether they were commissioned directly by Giustiniani or inherited from within his family is uncertain, but Cardinal Borromeo will have almost certainly made the introduction. We know, for instance, that Borromeo was a guest of Giorgio Giustiniani in his palace at S. Salvatore alle Coppelle in Rome in 1599, prompting Squarzina to even suggest that ‘it is not improbable that the six paintings were a present from the Cardinal to Giorgio and Giuseppe Giustiniani’ (ibid., p. 772).

The Giustinani pendant – the ‘Diluvio’ has further been identified by Honig as the Flood with Noah’s Ark, a copper with the same dimensions, also dated 1601 (Zurich, Kunsthaus; fig.2). This can also now be traced back to the Williams sale at Christie’s in 1946 (‘The Deluge’) and on to De Boer, who sold it separately to Thustrop in Sweden. Ertz’s record of the pictures being with De Boer in 1961 is erroneous owing merely to the date of the photo file in the De Boer archive. The third picture from the 1946 sale (‘The Fall of the Damned’), though the provenance was unknown at the time, was sold recently in these Rooms on 6 July 2023, lot 10 (£1,492,000), and that too clearly matches one of the six Giustiniani Brueghels – ‘Un quadrecto delli supliti dell’inferno, in rame’ (Posthumous Inventory of Benedetto Giustiniani, 1621, no. 245; 1600 inventory, no. 100).

While it is not clear what happened to the Giustiniani Brueghel after the break-up of the collection in 1812, the three pictures that were to appear in the 1946 Christie’s sale might have been acquired soon after by William Williams (1788-1855), described in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography as ‘a man of considerable culture, a great traveller and a patron of Welsh writers’. It was his son Morgan Williams who in 1899 acquired the vast medieval castle of St. Donat’s overlooking the Bristol channel, where the pictures are recorded as hanging, prior to the sale of the castle by Godfrey Williams in 1922. The castle achieved considerable notoriety soon after as it was bought by William Randolph Hearst, who spent a fortune on reconstruction, refurbishment and furnishings between 1925 and 1937, despite spending less than four months there over the course of a decade.

More from Old Masters Part I

View All
View All