Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637/8 Antwerp)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTOR
Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637/8 Antwerp)

The Road to Calvary

Pieter Brueghel II (Brussels 1564/5-1637/8 Antwerp)
The Road to Calvary
signed and dated ‘P• BRVEGHEL• 1607’ (lower left)
oil on panel
48 x 67 in. (122 x 170.3 cm.)

(Possibly) Victor-Amadeus of Savoy, Prince of Carignan (1690-1741); (†) Hôtel de Soissons, Paris, 30 July 1742 and the following days, as ‘du Vieux Breugel’; ‘Un Tableau sur bois de cinq pieds de large sur trois pieds huit pouces de haut, représentant un Calvaire avec quantité de fgures’; Hôtel de Soissons, Paris, 18 June 1743 and the following days, lot 16, as ‘du Vieux Breugel’.
(Possibly) Anonymous sale [Le Duc de Chabot, Wattelet, Baron de Breteuil, de Jully, d’Angevilliers et Robert]; A.J. Paillet, Hôtel de Bullion, 23 May 1780 and the following days, lot 100, as ‘le vieux Breughel’; ‘Un grand Tableau représentant le Calvaire. Ce morceau d’un grand détail est peint sur bois par le vieux Breughel’.
The Bishops of Antwerp, Episcopal Palace, Antwerp, probably until the French Revolution. Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts, Antwerp, by 1827, and deaccessioned in 1897 (in exchange for another version of the same composition and a Sermon on the Mount) to the following.
Mme. Ernest-Isidore-Hubert Slingeneyer de Goeswin, and by descent to
Robert Slingeneyer de Goeswin, Villers-Cotteret; Sotheby’s, London, 8 July 1981, lot 70.
Anonymous sale; Christie’s, New York, 10 January 1990, lot 180 ($1,375,000).
with Johnny van Haeften, London, 1992.
with Richard Green, London, 1995.
Anonymous sale [Property from a European Collection]; Sotheby’s, London, 5 July 2006, lot 20 (£5,160,000).

Notice des tableaux exposés au Musée d’Anvers, Antwerp, 1829, p. 8, no. 18, as ‘Pierre Breughel, dit le vieux’; ‘Tableau qui fourmille de figures: il est remarquable par les idées bizarres qu’il représente’. Catalogue du Musée d’Anvers, Antwerp, 1849, pp. 131-2, no. 173, as ‘Pierre Breughel, le vieux’; second edition, Antwerp, 1857, p. 148, no. 255, as ‘Pierre Breughel le jeune’; and third edition, Antwerp, 1874, p. 75, no. 31, as ‘Pierre Brueghel le jeune’.
W. Burger [T. Thoré], Musée d’Anvers, Paris, 1862, pp. 71 and 164, no. 255, as ‘Pierre Bruegel le jeune’; ‘grande et curieuse composition’.
A. Michiels, ‘Brueghel des Paysans’, in C. Blanc (ed.), Histoire des peintres de toutes les écoles: école flamande, Paris, 1864, pp. 6 and 8, as ‘Pierre Breughel le vieux’.
F.J. van den Branden, Geschiedenis der Antwerpsche Schilderschool, I, Antwerp, 1883, p. 441, as ‘den Helschen Breughel’ [Pieter Brueghel the Younger].
Catalogue du Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts d’Anvers, Antwerp, 1891, no. 31.
G. Glück, Breugels Gemälde, Vienna, 1932, p. 79, no. 67.
G. Marlier, Pieter Brueghel le jeune, Brussels, 1969, pp. 38 and 282, no. 5, and p. 284, under no. 13.
C. de Tolnay, P. Bianconi, Tout l’oeuvre peint de Bruegel l’ancien, Paris, 1981, p. 114, no. 88.
Catalogue du Musée d’Anvers, Antwerp, 1988, p. 62, no. 31.
K. Ertz, Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere, Lingen, 1988/2000, I, pp. 396 and 405, no. E396.
Zurich, Kunsthaus, on loan, 2007-2013.
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Lot Essay

Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s 1607 Road to Calvary is an undisputed masterpiece from the artist’s early maturity and one of the finest of all large-scale compositions by the artist still remaining in private hands. Described by Klaus Ertz as ‘von allerbester malerischer Qualität’, this picture is distinguished by its vivid palette and myriad of details, as well as its almost miraculous state of preservation. In 2006, when it last appeared on the art market, the picture achieved notoriety for setting, by a considerable margin, a new record auction price of £5.16 million, thus establishing a new benchmark for the artist, which has since been surpassed.

Brueghel seems to have attached particular importance to the subject of the Road to Calvary early in his career. He signed and dated five treatments in the years between 1599 and 1607, all of which are of especially high quality. This is the largest of the five and the only one still in private ownership after the Nostell Priory version of 1602 was acquired for the National Trust in 2011. The other three are the pictures of 1599 in Florence (Galleria degli Uffzi); that of 1603 in Antwerp (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten); and that of 1606 formerly in Halle (Staatliche Galerie Moitzburg), destroyed in the Second World War.

One of the reasons Brueghel may have invested so much of his artistic energy in the Road to Calvary at this time was that the design of the composition was his own, rather than a direct derivation from his father. The initial inspiration was no doubt his father Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s famous treatment of the same subject, painted in 1564 (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum; fig.1). The two paintings rely on a sweeping diagonal axis, with the procession of figures streaming from left to right, towards the distant hill of Calvary in the upper right corner. However, their two interpretations could not be more different. In Bruegel the Elder’s work, the figure of Christ, although central, is reduced to an almost incidental detail amongst the crowd. By contrast, Brueghel the Younger has brought the figure of Christ into the foreground and made Him not only larger but more central to the design. This important development of the design is further reinforced by a number of smaller changes. In the Vienna painting, Christ is mocked and derided by the soldiers, but here they escort Him quietly. Similarly, Saint Simon Cyrene is no longer shown being forcibly brought to Christ’s aid, but rather helps support the Cross without any intervention. A pilgrim, seated with his back to the spectator in the central foreground, takes the place of a peddler in the Vienna painting. Saint Veronica is also introduced, offering her veil to mop the brow of Christ. Most pointedly of all, across the road from the procession, the younger Brueghel has introduced a shrine, surmounted by a cross, where a woman offers money to a crippled beggar. Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s carefully thought out adaptation of the composition arguably provides a more spiritual context for the subject. In contrast to Breugel the Elder’s overtly pessimistic view of human nature, where Christ’s suffering is mocked or unheeded, his son expresses a sincere and devout sympathy for Christ’s sacrifice, inviting the spectator to contemplate empathetically on the Passion. This more optimistic view of human nature no doubt reflected the rather calmer political climate in early-seventeenth century Antwerp compared to the turbulence of his father’s day.

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