Born in 1535 in Leuven, Marten van Valckenborch joined the Guild of St. Luke in Malines in 1559; shortly after this date the first pupil was registered in his workshop. In 1564, Marten moved to Antwerp, but left two years later during the iconoclastic fury known as the 'Beeldenstorm'. Together with his brother Lucas, he stayed for two years in Aachen where they became associated with the architectural painters Hans Vredeman de Vries and Hendrik van Steenwijck I, the latter of whom became Marten’s son-in-law. Marten was recorded back in Antwerp between 1575 and 1576, but after the Fall of Antwerp in 1585, he left the Spanish Netherlands and moved to Frankfurt, where he was later joined by his brother. In Germany they operated a large and well run workshop, in which Marten's sons Gillis and Frederik also worked. The workshop produced a plethora of landscape paintings populated with religious and allegorical figures and scenes, as well as landscapes with more mundane agricultural or mining themes. The van Valckenborch studio additionally executed several allegories and portraits.
As is often the case with Marten van Valckenborch, this landscape is populated with diverse forms of human activity and has a large oak tree as a dominant element. From the early 1690s onwards, Marten’s paintings showed a more broad handling, using long sinuous lines for the outlines of the hills and other landscape elements. The present work is on stylistic grounds certainly a late work, circa 1610-12, executed during his final years. In his late career especially, Marten van Valckenborch regularly returned to the subject of Abraham and the Angels. The iconography of the painting is the same as one dated 1610, sold in these Rooms, 8 December 2010, lot 167.
We are very grateful to Dr. Luuk Pijl for endorsing the attribution and writing the catalogue entry.