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Post Lot Text
THE PAYMENT OF THE TITHES, OIL ON PANEL, SIGNED AND DATED 162(?), BY PIETER BRUEGHEL II
One of the most popular compositions of Pieter Brueghel the Younger, The payment of the tithes was painted in numerous versions by the painter and his workshop. Only nineteen of these versions are signed and dated, all between 1615 and 1630.
Unrecorded to this date, since it was kept in the same family for several generations, the present painting was, if one looks at its quality, probably painted in the beginning of the 1620's (and the signature seems to read 1623 or 1625) by Brueghel the Younger. It belongs to the series of Payments of the Tithes of smaller formats, which were particularly appreciated by the artist's contemporaries. According to Klaus Ertz, the larger formats are less fortunate because 'they have an awkward relation between height and width' (Pieter Breughel Le Jeune- Jan Brueghel L'Ancien, une famille de peintres flamands vers 1600, cat.expo., Lingen 1998, p. 391).
It seems that Pieter Brueghel the Elder was not the inventor of this theme, which remains mysterious in several aspects: who is the man dressed in black, a lawyer or a tax collector? What was in the 17th century, the satirical significance of this work? The opposition between the important attitude of the lawyer and the respectful fear of the peasants, and the disorder of the scene was, without a doubt, full of irony. Moreover, why are certain documents such as the almanach on the right on which we read 'almanach de grace de Dieu', written in French? The hypothesis of a prototype painted by a French artist then re-interpreted by Brueghel, which is reinforced by the clothes of the peasants, was emitted by Jacqueline Folie in a monographic exhibition which took place at the Musée Bonnefanten in Maastricht in 1993. Klaus Ertz has, more precisely, suggested the name of Nicolas Baullery as the inventor of this composition (see K. Ertz, Pieter Brueghel der Jungere, Lingen, 1998-2000).