Bartholomeus Breenbergh (Deventer 1599-1659 Amsterdam)
Bartholomeus Breenbergh (Deventer 1599-1659 Amsterdam)

A coastal landscape with Saul after the Conversion

Bartholomeus Breenbergh (Deventer 1599-1659 Amsterdam)
A coastal landscape with Saul after the Conversion
signed and dated 'BBreenborch. fecit. A.o. 1633.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
25 x 55 in. (64.8 x 140.9 cm.)
Private collection, The Hague.
Dr. and Mrs. Richard W. Levy, New Orleans.
M.G. Roethlisberger, Bartholomus Breenbergh, The Paintings, New York, 1981, p. 65, no. 154, illustrated.
New York, Richard L. Feigen & Co., Bartholomeus Breenbergh, 18 September-31 October 1991, no. 10, illustrated (catalogue by M.G. Roethlisberger)
Sale room notice
Please note the following additional information:
Montreal, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Italian Recollections: Dutch Painters of the Golden Age, 8 June-22 July 1990, no. 22 (illustrated in colour).
M.R. Waddington, 'Bartholomeus Breenburgh: The Paintings', by Marcel Roethlisberger, The Burlington Magazine, CXXXIII, London, 1981, pp. 426-27.

Lot Essay

This painting represents the blinded and converted Saul continuing his journey to Damascus, where he was to be baptised. In contrast to the conversion of Saul itself, the depiction of this stage in the narrative is rare in painting. This painting and its prototype, Lucas van Leyden's innovatory engraving, The Conversion of St. Paul of 1509 (Hollstein 7) are significant exceptions. From the engraving, the artist adopted the compositional features of the grouping of the three principal figures and the outcrop of rock behind them (see Roethlisberger, 1981 and 1991, loc. cit.). Like van Leyden, Breenbergh chose to emphasise the aspect of the narrative rooted in ordinary human experience.

Roethlisberger describes this painting as the most monumental of the artist's elongated, panoramic views, and suggests that its large format indicates that it was painted on commission (see Roethlisberger, 1981 and 1991, ibid.). Executed after the artist's return to Amsterdam from Rome in about 1629, the painting represents the work of the mature artist at the height of his powers. In contrast to the pure landscapes and genre scenes of the artist's earlier Rome period, this painting is characteristic of Breenbergh's Dutch landscapes in its incorporation of a religious narrative scene. The landscape itself takes on the spiritual significance of the narrative: 'The impact of the conversion and the lapse of time involved are given an extraordinary visual expression by the progression of the landscape....' (Roethlisberger, op. cit., 1991, p. 28). The distant, radiant promontory suggests that the artist had been to Cap Miseno in the Gulf of Naples.

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