PROVENANT TRES PROBABLEMENT DES COLLECTIONS DE RODOPLHE II DE HABSBOURG
Post Lot Text
THE FEAST OF THE GODS, OIL ON COPPER, SIGNED AND DATED BY HANS ROTTENHAMMER AND JAN BRUEGHEL THE ELDER
HANS ROTTENHAMMER (MUNICH 1564-1625 AUGSBURG) AND JAN BRUEGHEL I (BRUSSELS 1568-1625 ANTWERP)
The Feast of the gods: the marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne
signed and dated 'Gio. Rottenhamer 1602 F. in Veneti.' (lower center) oil on copper
31,2 x 40,5 cm. (12.3 x 15.9 in.)
(very probably) Rudolf II von Habsburg (1562-1612 Prague)
(possibly) Marquis d'Arcambal ; his sale, Paris, 22 February 1776, lot 14 (on copper, 'hauteur douze pouces, largeur dix-sept pouces', bought by Fournel).
(probably) Renaud-César-Louis de Choiseul, duc de Praslin ; his sale, 18 February 1793, lot 72 (on copper, 'hauteur onze pouces, largeur quatorze pouces' [approx. 30 x 38 cm.])
Maurice Abram de Zincourt (1836-1908) and by descent to the present owners.
(probably) C. Ridolfi, Maraviglie dell'arte, Venise, 1648, p. 84.
(probably) T. Fusenig in the exhibition catalogue Hans Rottenhammer, Begehrt- vergessen - neu entdeckt, Prague, 2008-9, p. 81.
After his training with the painter Hans Donauer in Munich, Hans Rottenhammer arrived in Italy circa 1591. In Venice, he studied the art of Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese. In Rome in 1594-95, he met the landscapists Paul Bril and Jan Brueghel the Elder, with whom he started to collaborate. The return of Brueghel to Antwerp in 1596 did not stop this fruitful collaboration, with Rottenhammer executing the staffage in Venice and Brueghel the landscape and still-lives in Antwerp. Brueghel and Rottenhammer painted together, around 1597, a small painting on copper, Diana and Actaeon (now in the Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart). The existence of a preparatory drawing for the figure of Diana, signed and dated by Rottenhammer, led scholars to believe that he would start the paintings and send them to Brueghel to be completed. On the contrary, in the present painting, one can still read an indistinct date "16..", just above the signature and date. It then becomes probable that Brueghel signed and dated the painting first, and his writing was erased by Rottenhammer. The probable provenance of the painting reinforces this hypothesis. At that time, Rottenhammer was indeed working as a commercial agent for the most refined of all sovereigns, Rudolf II von Habsburg in Prague. The biographer Carlo Ridolfi reports that Rudolf II bought a Feast of the Gods from him, which he paid 500 scudi. That picture was crucial in Rottenhammer's career because Rudolf was followed by other aristocratic sponsors. The quality of the execution, the use of precious lapis-lazuli, the dimension of the copper lead us to believe that the present painting was ordered by Rudolf II.
The feast of the gods was painted two years after another masterpiece by Rottenhammer, the marriage of Neptune and Amphitrite(Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg). Our painting replicates, in reverse, the seated female figure seen from the back. The aging Bacchus reappears in another feast of the Gods private collection). It could be Rottenhammer's self-portrait. The opposition between Apollo and the Muses, to the left, and Bacchus and the sick putti, to the right, can probably be read as a allegory of the fight between vice and virtue (cf. E.-M. Froitzhim-Hegger, Sie lebten dahin sorglos in behaglicher Ruhe. Studien zum niederlandischer and flemischer Gttermahl, Hildesheim, 1993, p. 170). According to Klaus Ertz, it is not evident that the picture depicts the marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne : the female goddess seated next to Bacchus could also be Ceres (cf. K. Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Altere, Lingen, 2008, II, p. 804).
Renaud-Csar Louis de Choiseul Praslin (1735-1791) was the son of Csar-Gabriel de Choiseul. The latter had gathered in his hôtel particulier de Belle-Isle, Quai de la Grenouillère and his castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte one of the most important art collection of the time, which the son completed. In 1793, 114 paintings were auctioned, among which a Portrait of a lady by Rembrandt and The King drinks, by Jordaens -today in the Hermitage-. Lot 72 was " a painting of the richest composition and the most precious effect in all its parts ; it represents a feast of the Gods in a landscape made of pleasant groves. This part, painted by Velvet Brueghel, is incredibly refined in its execution. All the details of flowers, shells, and goods which cover the table are by van Kessel. The three artists worked together in perfect harmony to produce a work of art as brilliant as precious. Among the several groups of the picture, composed of more than fifty figures, one can notice the drunken Sylenus to the right, and many children who obviously took part in the lunch. We believe that this painting is one of the most finished and rich by H. Rottenhammer".
An anonymous copy of our painting is at present in the Hermitage Museum. Another, brighter and simplified, by Hendrick van Balen, is today in the Museum der bildenden Kunste in Leipzig.
We are grateful to Dr Klaus Ertz who confirmed the attribution to Hans Rottenhammer and Jan Brueghel the Elder after examination of the painting and to DR. Heiner Borggrefe for his help.