This is one of the finest works by Jan Brueghel the Elder left in private hands, and one of only two paintings by him to include a self-portrait. It has been in only three highly distinguished collections since 1730 and probably earlier.
Jan Brueghel returned to the theme of the riverside village with a harbour to the right repeatedly throughout the second decade of the 17th century. The composition of these pictures is organised along a diagonal, receding from the right foreground to the distance at the left. The forerunner of these is probably the painting of 1606 at Apsley House, of which variants are known.1 The first of the true series however, in which the viewpoint is lower and the foreground figures nearer and more numerous, is the example in Bonn, painted in 1611.2 Following this is the larger picture in Vienna which, like the present work, includes a self-portrait, dated 1614, and finally two years later, the present picture, which is the culmination and summation of the series.3 Brueghel also painted versions of the compositional type but reversed, such as the example in Munich.4 With each version Brueghel attains a greater degree of pictorial sophistication, in particular in the arrangement of the figures, which here appear either side of a row of dancers aligned with the diagonal.
Although painted one year apart, the present and the Munich pictures are on copper plates of identical size, and would in terms of composition be suited as pendants. Though both share a Mannheim provenance, and are likely to have been together earlier than that, they were probably not conceived as a pair.
As in the Vienna picture, Jan Brueghel depicts himself in the foreground. In the present picture he is seen wearing black with a black hat and a white ruff, deep in conversation with another man who is similarly dressed (see Fig. 1, detail). His features may easily be recognised from Van Dyck's likeness of him, done a few years later. Ertz has suggested that the women and children nearby are his family, which may be the case, although they cannot be positively identified by their likenesses (fig. 2).
A smaller exact copy in Turin, Galleria Sabauda, bears a signature and date 1603 (or 8), but is too feeble to be autograph.5
The Electoral and Royal Collections: Düsseldorf, Mannheim & Munich
This picture was acquired the Palatine Elector Johann Wilhelm for the Electoral Gallery in Düsseldorf before 1716.6 It is not recorded in Gerhard Karsch's printed catalogue of the Düsseldorf Gallery, which however omitted the two hundred or more cabinet pictures kept in two private cabinets or the 34 works in the bedroom.7 It is however listed as no. 2 in the undated catalogue entitled Detail des Peintures du Cabinet Electoral de Dusseldorf, which is kept in the Herzog August Bibliothek at Wolfenbüttel.8 Johann Wilhelm's brother and successor Elector Karl III Phillipp (1661-1742) moved parts of the Düsseldorf collection to his new capital Mannheim in 1730, where this picture is recorded in the inventory of that year, as Ein bauern Tantz, von F. Brugel (the F stands for Fluweleen, or `Velvet', the artist's nickname, earned for the smoothness of his technique).9 It is recorded again the following year in the last of four anonymous drawings made of the walls of the Cabinets in the Mannheim palace in 1731 (see fig. 3).10 It hung on the bottom row, one of six similarly sized pictures by Jan Brueghel the Elder divided into two sequences of three (flanking a larger work by Rubens and Brueghel), the middle work of the left hand row. The Munich picture was its counterpart in the middle of the right hand row.11 Both works were also stated to have been at Mannheim in the 1884 and subsequent Alte Pinakothek catalogues. The entire collection of the Wittelsbach Elector Karl Theodor was brought in 1798/9 to Munich, where this picture is listed in the inventory of 1810 compiled by the Gallery director Christian von Mannlich, as one of a pair, hanging in the palace at Schleissheim. After 1836 it was in Von Klenze's newly built Alte Pinakothek where it is included in the 1838 catalogue written by Georg von Dillis, and where it is last listed in 1908.12 It is not listed in the 1912 catalogue, and may well by then have been transferred to one of the Filialgalerien, or kept in the vaults. It remained in the Bavarian Electoral, Royal and State picture collections until 1923, when sold by exchange. The latter body (the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen) made a number of sales, usually by exchange throughout the 1920s and 1930s, seemingly with the purpose of fortifying weaker areas of the collection. It must be said that the Alte Pinakothek still has today one of the greatest collections of Jan Brueghel's works anywhere in the world.
Hans Mettler (1876-1945) joined his father's textile firm in Sankt Gallen in 1900, becoming a junior partner in 1912. Since Mettler & Co. was a trading rather than a manufacturing concern, his work involved him in a considerable amount of travelling, which often brought him to Paris. In a period of only fourteen years he amassed an important collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, starting with a work by the Swiss painter Hodler in 1915, and ending with a little Cézanne Une Baignade, bought in 1929. The depression, coupled with his promotion to senior partner seems to have brought his collecting years to an end. Upon his death in 1945 he left a life interest to his wife, and shortly after her death his collection was dispersed at auction: the modern pictures in a single owner sale in July 1979 and the present picture earlier that year. The present picture may well have been his only major Old Master.
1. London, Wellington Museum, Apsley House, signed and dated 1606, oil on copper, 27.3 by 40.6 cm.; see Ertz, under Literature, 1979, pp. 52, 54, 69, 80, 184, 188 and 580, no. 135, reproduced fig. 24.
2. Bonn, Rheinisches Landesmuseum, inv. 37,2-3141, signed and dated 1611, oil on panel, 41.5 by 60.5 cm.; see Ertz, op. cit., pp. 52, 54, 69, 85, 164, 169, 222 and 597, no. 235, reproduced fig. 25.
3. Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, inv. 9102, signed and dated 1614, oil on panel, 52 by 90.5 cm.; ibid., pp. 78, 80, 222, 332, 445-46 and 603, no. 278, reproduced in colour fig. 283.
4. Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv. 4891, signed and dated 1615, oil on copper, 25.8 by 37 cm.; ibid., pp. 52, 55, 78, 89, 169 and 605, no. 286, reproduced fig. 26.
5. From the collection of Prince Eugenio di Savoia-Soissons, Inv. 216. Oil on copper, 19 by 24 cm.; ibid., p. 608, and Ertz, under Literature, 1980, p. 196; see also Guida breve..., Turin 1993, vol. 4.
6. We are grateful to Dr. Marcus Dekiert, Konservator at the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, for confirming this.
7. G.J. Karsch, Ausführliche und gründliche Specification ... in der Galerie der Churfürstlichen Residentz zu Düsseldorf..., Düsseldorf 1719.
8. See under literature. This appears to have been the source for Van Gool, 1751, who follows exactly the same sequence of pictures.
9. See under literature.
10. Reproduced Korthals Altes, 2003, fig. 98. These four drawings, preceded by a title page inscribed: Le recueil du cabinet des peintres de son Altesse Serenissime Electorale au château de Mannheim, are now in the Bibliothèque d'Art et d'Archeologie, Paris. The drawings, and the Electoral inventories, are discussed at length by E. Korthals Altes, 2003, pp. 206-18, and are each reproduced, figs. 95-98.
11. See note 4 above.
12. It was never at Augsburg, as has been stated by Ertz, 1979 and elsewhere.
Oil on copper
Brussels, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bruegel. Une dynastie de peintres, 18 September - 18 November 1980, no. 130;
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Breughel-Brueghel, 7 December 1997-14 April 1998, no. 63;
Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Breughel-Brueghel, 2 May-26 July 1998, no. 59.
25.5 by 37.5 cm. ; 10 by 14 3/4 in.
Detail des Peintures du Cabinet Electoral de Dusseldorf, printed, but undated, (Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek); no.2;
Inventarium über die in Ihrer Churfürstl. Dhltg. beijden Cabineten zu Düsseldorf beffundene rahre gemähl, ..., welche von Gülich und Bergischen HoffCamerRathen Karsch ..., Mss, 1730, (Karlsruhe, Generallandesarchiv), no. 2: Ein bauern Tantz von F. Brugel;
Cabinets de Son altesse Serenissime Electorale du château de Mannheim, l'an 1731, 1731, where reproduced in the lower left corner of the drawing of the fourth wall (Paris, Bibliothèque d'Art et d'Archéologie, Paris, MS 409);
J. van Gool, De Nieuwe Schouburg der Nederlandsche Kunstschilders en Schilderessen, The Hague 1750-51, vol. II, p. 559;
Detail des Peintures des deux Cabinets Electoraux à Mannheim, undated Mss, )Munich, Geheimes Hausarchiv, inv. no. 882 v g), no. 194;
C. von Mannlich, Beschreibung der Königlich-Baierischen Gemälde-Sammlungen. Dritter Band. Enthaltend die Gemälde zu Schleisheim und Lustheim, Munich 1810, p. 180, no. 2224, as one of a pair with no. 2225. `Johann Brueghel. Zwey Landschaften mit Figuren, Wägen und ländlichen Gebäuden. Auf dem ersten Bilde die See mit Fischerbooten, ein Fischmarkt und tanzende Bauern und Bäuerinnen. ... Auf Kupfer. – H. 9,6. Br. I, I', as both hanging at Schleissheim;
G. von Dillis, Verzeichnis der Gemaelde in der königlichen Pinakothek zu München, Munich 1838, p. 564, no. 205 (reprinted in Böttger below);
Katalog der Gemälde-Sammlung der Kgl. Älteren Pinakothek in München. Mit einer historischen Einleitung von Dr. Franz von Reber. Munich 1884, and revised ed., 1886, p. 143, 7th ed., 1898 & 8th ed. 1901, p. 158, and 1908 ed., p. 150, no. 696, (no. 797 in the Marggraff catalogue), Volksbelustigung vor einer kleinen an einem Fluss liegenden Stadt. Inscribed lower left: BRVEGHEL 1616. FECIT. Copper. 0.25 m. high, 0.36 m. wide. From the Gallery at Mannheim. (Room (cabinet) XIII);
A. von Wurzbach, Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon, vol. I, Vienna/Leipzig 1906, p. 205;
Y. Thiéry, Le Paysage Flamand au XVIIe siècle, Brussels 1953, p. 176;
P. Böttger, Die Alte Pinakothek in München. Mit einem Anhang: Abdruck des frühesten Gemäldeverzeichnisses der Pinakothek aus dem Jahre 1838 von Georg von Dillis. Nach den heutigen Inventarnummern identifiziert von Gisela Scheffler. Munich 1972 (republishing Von Dillis' inventory);
K. Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere, Cologne 1979, pp. 52, 55, 78, 169, 222, 446 and 608, cat. no. 305, reproduced figs. 27 and 538 (detail);
K. Ertz, in P. Roberts-Jones (ed.), Bruegel. Une dynastie de peintres, exhibition catalogue, Brussels, 1980, p. 196, no. 130, reproduced;
K. Ertz, in Breughel-Brueghel, exhibition catalogue, Vienna 1997, pp. 228-230, no. 63, reproduced;
K. Ertz, in Brueghel-Brueghel, exhibition catalogue, antwerp 1998, pp. 190-2, no. 59, reproduced;
E. Korthals-Altes, `The collections of the Palatine Electors: new information, documents and drawings', in The Burlington Magazine, March 2003, p. 212, 213 (no. 2);
M. Klinge, in M. Klinge & D. Lüdke, David Teniers der Jüngere 1610-1690..., exhibition catalogue, Karlsruhe 2005, p. 33, reproduced p. 32, fig. 5.
Johann Wilhelm, Kurfürst von der Pfalz (1658-1716), located in one of the two Gemäldekabinetten in the Schloß at Düsseldorf;
His brother Karl III Philipp, Kurfürst von der Pfalz (1661-1742), at Düsseldorf, and at Mannheim from 1730 when recorded there in the inventory of that year, and in the dawing of the cabinets in the Mannheim palace done in 1731;
His nephew Karl Theodor von Pfalz-Sulzbach (1724-1799) Kurfürst von der Pfalz, from 1743 and Kurfürst von Bayern from 1777, Mannheim, and from 1798/9, Munich;
His successor, Maximilian IV Joseph, Herzog von Zweibrücken and Elector of both the Palatine and Bavaria, and from 1806 König von Bayern (King of Bavaria);
Thence by descent in the Bavarian Royal collections by 1810, when housed at Schleissheim, according to Von Mannlich's inventory (see literature); otherwise probably housed in Lespilliez' Gallery in the northern wing of the Hofgarten;
Thence by descent in the Bavarian Royal Collection, Munich, and subsequently Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, kept in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich from 1838 (when inv. 205) and from 1884 inv. no. 696) until 1923, when sold by exchange in 1923 to Julius Böhler, Munich;
By whom sold in August 1923 to Hans Mettler (1876-1945) of Sankt Gallen, Switzerland;
Sold by order of his Beneficiaries, London, Christie's, 29 June 1979, lot 12;
With David Koetser, Zurich, from whom acquired by the present owner in 1979-80.