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( Originally Published 1955 )
A long lineage of Flemish painters. The eldest and most important was Pieter Brueghel the Elder (c.1525/30-69) (see). He had two sons, Jan or Velvet Brueghel (1568-1625) (see) and Pieter the Younger (1564-1637/38) or Hell-fire Brueghel, so called because of his hells and scenes of conflagrations. Hell-fire had a son Pieter III (1589-1638139). a mediocre artist. Velvet had two sons: Ambrosius (1617-75) and Jan II (1601-78) who imitated their father. Velvet's three daughters married painters: Borrekens, Kessel and David Teniers II. Jan Brueghel II in turn had five sons, all painters, but none good: Jan-Peeter (born 1628), Abraham (163190), Philip (born 1635), Ferdinand (born 1637) and Jan Baptist (1647-1719). It might be noted that the Kessels, the Teniers and the Abraham Brueghels continued producing artists for several generations.
Brueghel (Bruegel) the Elder, Pieter (called the Droll or Peasant) (c. 1525/30-69). Flemish painter from the small village of Brueghel. His own spelling was Bruegel. One of the great painters of Flanders, he did religious subjects, fantasies, and genre scenes of peasant life. Unique in sixteenth century art, he was still highly regarded, successful. and much admired by his contemporaries, especially by the Emperor Rudolph, who bought all of the pictures now in Vienna. According to the historian van Mander, he studied in Antwerp with Pieter Coecke van Aelst and later with Jerome Cocke (1550). He entered the Antwerp guild in 1551 and took a trip to Italy, perhaps with Martin de Vos, traveling as far as Sicily and making drawings of nature rather than the antique (1522-23). On his return he did drawings for engravings by Jerome Cocke. He eventually settled in Brussels (c.1563), married a daughter of Pieter Coecke. had two sons and lived a peaceful and successful life as a painter and part of a circle of liberal humanists-among them Ortelius, Plantin. Hogenbergh, and Goltzius. His paintings, influenced by the humanism of the circle, had a moral and philosophical significance. His art, as opposed to that of Bosch, is not pessimistic but expresses a belief in life as an allpervading force. He saw man as dominated by the forces of nature and although the peasant may appear uncouth and vulgar he is still admirable because he is closest to nature, the symbol of natural man. His concern with nature led to some of the most magnificent and cosmic landscapes in the history of painting. His art like that of Bosch has a very definite literary basis, though the sources are different-in his case proverbs and metaphors. His art is also characterized by a satirical inversion, the Monde Renverse, dealing with the foolishness of man and the wiseness of fools. His religious subjects and fantasies are seen in terms of contemporary peasant life. Influenced by Durer, sixteenth-century German draughtsmen, and probably Michelangelo, he presents the peasant as a monumental and heroic figure in all the richness of his daily life, painted in great detail, with beautiful simplicity of color and exquisite invention.
His paintings are dated 1557-68. The earliest show the influence of Bosch and this continues in certain later subjects: the Triumph of Death (1561, Prado), the Fall of Rebel Angels (1562, Brussels), Dulle Griete (1562, Antwerp, Musee Mayer van den Bergh), all of which are archaic in composition but very advanced in their realistic treatment, atmospheric effects, and technical execution. His treatment of peasant life begins with complex scenes of a metaphorical nature, Proverbs (1559, Berlin) and Children's Games (1560, Vienna) ; and then continues with the more monumental landscape conceptions of the months (c.1565, 3 in Vienna, 1 in New York, 1 in Raudnitz). It ends with the late style in which the figures become larger and dominant: Land of Cockaigne (1567. Munich). the Blind Leading the Blind (1567, Naples), Bird's Nest (1568. Vienna), Peasant Dance and Peasant Wedding (both 1568, Vienna). His religious scenes are treated as genre subjects in great landscapes with many figures: Tower of Babel (1563, Vienna), Bearing of the Cross (1564, Vienna). Adoration of the Magi (1564, London), Conversion of St. Paul (1567, Vienna).
Brueghel, Jan (called Velvet Brueghel) (1568-1625). Flemish painter, son of Pieter the Elder; famous for his small pictures of botanical and zoological subjects, though he also did religious, historical, and genre pictures, all painted with meticulous detail and enamel-like color and characterized by a graceful poetic imagination. Born in Brussels, he came early to Antwerp, where he studied with Pieter Goetkind, became a member of the guild (1597), and lived all his life except for short visits to Italy (1594, 1596), Prague (1604), and Nuremberg (1616). He had two sons, eight grandsons, and four great-grandsons, all of whom were painters. He was extremely popular, became quite wealthy, received many honors and was greatly admired by Rubens, with whom he collaborated: for instance, he painted the accessories in Rubens' Madonna with Garland (Munich; Louvre), and Rubens painted the figures in his Paradise (Mauritshuis). Renowned as a painter of plants and animals he also collaborated with van Balen, Rottenhammer, Frans Franken II, de Momper, Brill, and Neef. On his return from Italy he worked for the Archduke Albert, executing fifty pictures, including many versions of "The Five Senses" and "The Four Elements," which are among his finest works. He is the first of a series of Flemish little masters. There are 54 of his paintings in Madrid, 41 in Munich, 33 in Dresden, and 29 in Milan.