The present set belongs to a small, but distinct, group of paintings on copper by Paul Bril. These include a painting in the Royal Collection, Hampton Court Palace (inv. no. 403.033); one in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich (inv. no. 1084); one in the Exeter collection, Burghley House (inv. no. 21) and one in the collection of Julius Held (see J. Welu, in the catalogue of the exhibition, The Collector's Cabinet. Flemish Paintings from New England Private Collections, Worcester Art Museum, 1983, no. 6, illustrated).
None of the above group are dated, but the Exeter painting appears in a gallery picture by Frans Francken II, dated 1617, suggesting that the whole group may be dated to 1615-20. A further picture related to the group was sold, Christie's, New York, 27 January 2000, lot 3 ($95,000), for which a slightly later date of circa 1625 may be considered on the basis of a larger version, with differences, dated 1625 (Hermitage, St. Petersburg). Bril rarely painted on copper after 1605, and therefore the tiny paintings in this coherent group are stylistically different from his earlier works on metal support, as well as from his contemporary large-scale works.
We are grateful to Dr. Luuk Pijl for his assistance in cataloguing the present lot; Dr. Pijl will be including the four pictures in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Paul Bril.