LAWRENCE STEIGRAD FINE ARTS

Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits

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JAN BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGER (Antwerp 1601 – Antwerp 1678)

and AMBROSIUS FRANCKEN THE YOUNGER (Antwerp [?] c. 1590 – Antwerp 1632)

Allegory of Abundance

oil on panel

24 x 40 inches          (60.5 x 100.3 cm.)


PROVENANCE

Salomon Benedikt Goldschmidt (1818-1906), Frankfurt-am-Main, later Vienna

Sammlung S.B. Goldschmidt sale, Kunsthandlung Friedrich Schwarz, Wien, March 11, 1907, lot 12 (as by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hendrik van Balen)

Alfred (1883-1961) and Hermine Stiassni (1889-1962), Brno, Czechoslovakia until 1938; thence London, 1938-1940; thence Los Angeles, 1940-1962; thence by descent to Susanne Stiassni Martin & Leonard Martin, San Francisco, until 2005; thence by descent to

Private Collection, California, 2005-2012

 

LITERATURE

Gustav Glück, “Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hendrik van Balen” in Katalog der Sammlung S.B. Goldschmidt aus Frankfurt A.M., Wien, 1907, pp. 13, 22, no. 12, illustrated (as by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hendrik van Balen)

K., “Kunstveilingen” in Onze Kunst, J.E. Buschmann Drukker-Uitgever-Antwerpen, January-June, 1907, p. 241 (as by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hendrik van Balen)

“The S.B. Goldschmidt Collection” in The Athenaeum Journal, John C. Francis and J. Edward Francis, London, January to June 1907, p. 298 (as by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hendrik van Balen)

Dr. Theordor v. Frimmel, “Die Sammlung Benedikt Goldschmidt in Frankfurt am Main” in Blätter Für Gemaldekunde, volume 3, Verlag Von Gerold & Co., Wien, 1907, p. 180 (as by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hendrik van Balen)

J.E. Buschmann, ed., “Ventes d’Art – Collection Gold-Schmidt” in L’Art Flamand & Hollandais, volume 4, Anvers, 1907, p. 256 (as by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hendrik van Balen)

Ingrid Jost, “Hendrick van Balen d. Ä” in Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, 14, 1963, p. 125, n. 125 (figures by Hendrick van Balen)

E. Haverkamp-Begemann & Anne-Marie S. Logan, “Hendrik van Balen; Bacchus, Venus, and Ceres” in European Drawings and Watercolors in the Yale University Art Gallery 1500-1900, volume I, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1970, p. 281, no. 517 (figures by Hendrik van Balen)

Klaus Ertz, Jan Breughel Der Jüngere (1601-1678), Die Gemälde mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Luca Verlag, Freren, 1984, p. 381, cat. no. 215 (as very likely a variant by Jan Brueghel the Younger and probably by Hendrik van Balen)

Lubomír Slavíček, “Hendrik van Balen, Jan I Brueghel-Venus, Bacchus, and Ceres” in Brueghel and Netherlandish landscape painting from the National Gallery Prague, exhibition catalog, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, March 20-May 27, 1990 and traveling, p. 152 (as a version of the Prague piece)

Lubomír Slavíček, “Hendrick I van Balen and Jan I Brueghel; Landscape with Venus, Bacchus and Ceres, Sine Baccho et Cerere Friget Venus” in The National Gallery in Prague; Flemish Paintings of the 17th and 18th Centuries, The National Gallery in Prague, 2000, p. 68, cat. no. 15 (as a contemporary copy of the Prague painting with figures by an anonymous Antwerp-based artist from the circle of Frans II Francken)

Bettina Werche, Hendrick van Balen (1575-1637) ein Antwerpener Kabinettbildmaler der Rubenszeit, Brepols, Turnhout, 2004, volume I, p 162, cat. no. A72, volume II, p. 366, cat. no. A72, illustrated (as by Hendrick van Balen and Jan Brueghel the Younger, a replica of the Prague painting and as location unknown)

Klaus Ertz and Christa Nitze-Ertz, Jan Brueghel Der Ältere (1568-1625) Kritischer Katalog der Gemälde, volume II, Luca Verlag, Lingen, 2008-10, p. 707, cat. no. 344, fn. 4 & 5 (as probably a contemporary replica of the Prague painting, and probably lost)

 

Missing from public view since 1907 and known only from an old black and white photo, Allegory of Abundance by Jan Brueghel the Younger and Ambrosius Francken the Younger can only be described as a rediscovered masterpiece. In 1907 it was heralded in the press as one of the highlights of Salomon Benedikt Goldschmidt’s old master collection for which Gustav Glück wrote the introduction in the auction catalog, and of such high quality that no one doubted it as the work of Jan Brueghel the Elder. Taken out of Europe in 1938 when Alfred and Hermine Stiassni were forced to flee the Nazis, it eventually made its way to California where it remained virtually out of sight until 2012. In its absence, succeeding generations of scholars could only speculate on its relationship to the painting in The National Gallery, Prague by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hendrick van Balen, Landscape with Venus, Bacchus and Ceres (inventory no. 0 10161[DO 4940, Z2270], oil on panel, 58.5 x 100.5 cm.) which it so closely resembles. This also accounts for the vague verbiage used in regards to the attribution of this work in a number of later literary references. Dr Klaus Ertz, working only from an old photograph in the Witt Library, London,[1] had also approached it quite cautiously in his publications Jan Brueghel der Jüngere, 1984 (op.cit., p. 381, cat. no. 215) and Jan Brueghel der Ältere, 2008-10 (op.cit., p. 107, cat. no. 344, fn. 4 & 5). Upon viewing the painting in November 2013, Dr. Ertz wrote, “this morning I saw your wonderful painting…the landscape is from Jan Brueghel the Younger, the figures from Ambrosius Francken the Younger circa 1630.”[2] He further described the state of the painting as quite outstanding.[3]

The subject of this work has been variously titled. For Gustav Glück it was an Allegory of Autumn, Klaus Ertz termed it Allegory of Abundance, and Lubomír Slavíček catalogued it as Venus, Bacchus and Ceres, Sine Baccho et Cerere Friget Venus. It may properly be considered all three. The harvest deities of Bacchus and Ceres flank Venus the goddess of love, and illustrate the motto Sine Baccho et Cere Friget Venus (without Bacchus and Ceres, Venus grows cold)—a quotation from the Roman dramatist Terence suggesting that love disappears without the stimulus of wine and food. As Bacchus the wine god and Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, are associated with the bounty of the autumn harvest, their presence in the context of the richness of the vegetation, produce, fruit and flowers, make the painting both an allegory of the season and more broadly one of abundance.

Abundance accurately describes the painting’s visual impact. Across its polished jewel-like surface nature, mythology, and exotic as well as common animals combine in a kaleidoscope of vivid coloration and miniaturistic detail.  Seated in the center is Venus, flanked by Cupid and Bacchus. An attendant is in the midst of placing a laurel wreath upon her head, symbolic of the goddess’s power and glory. Overhead, putti shower her with roses, the flower being one her attributes. Bacchus raises his golden drinking cup to Venus, clearly identifiable by his girth and crown of vine leaves. His accompanying putti and Satyr are laden with grapes. Completing Bacchus’s retinue, Pan plays his syrinx to two seated Bacchantes and a Satyr in the greenish-blue fields of the left-midground. Ceres stands to the right of Cupid holding a bouquet of wheat stalks surrounded by five putti struggling to support a huge cornucopia. Prosperine, Ceres’ daughter, is by her side, identifiable by the pomegranate in her basket. After being struck by one of Cupid’s arrows Pluto, the god of the underworld, abducted Prosperine to be his wife. (Francken has mischievously placed Prosperine in Cupid’s firing range.) Ceres searched the world for her daughter, and until they were reunited let the earth become barren. Allowed to ascend to Earth from September until December and then return to Hades, Prosperine’s life foretold the seasons.[4] To the right of Ceres and Prosperine a pathway with travelers winds into the distance. Among the many depicted wondrous elements, a particularly charming vignette occurs in the center foreground in which two guinea pigs eating peas capture the attention of an entranced putto. Guinea pigs were unknown in Europe until after the discovery of America.[5] Assuredly the putto’s response presupposes that of the seventeenth century viewer.

In 1601, Jan Brueghel the Elder’s oldest son Jan Brueghel the Younger was born in Antwerp, the most important art center in Flanders. Jan Brueghel the Elder was the son of Pieter Brueghel the Elder and along with Peter Paul Rubens regarded as the leading artists of Antwerp. Renowned for his meticulously rendered still lifes and landscapes, his fluidity with a paintbrush earned him the nickname “Velvet Brueghel.”[6] He was also a catalyst in the movement of Netherlandish landscape painting towards a greater naturalism[7] by employing a more realistic viewpoint with a stronger horizontal emphasis, distinct color scheme, and subject matter complemented by minute detailing that became a touchstone for decades.[8] His son Jan inherited his skill as well as the versatility needed to continue the wide range of subjects his father had developed.

By age ten Jan had begun training in his father’s studio. By 1616, as recorded in correspondence archived from his father at the Ercole Biacchi, Milan, arrangements were made for Jan to continue his education in Italy, which was customary for Northern painters during this period. In Milan he worked under the protectorship of Cardinal Federico Borromeo, a patron and friend of his father. He also traveled to Sicily, including Palermo, in 1623 and again in 1624 where he was reunited with his childhood friend Anthony van Dyck. In the beginning of 1625, he learnt of his father’s death and returned home to Antwerp to take over the family studio. In 1625 he joined the Guild of St. Luke and in 1626 married Anna Maria Janssens, the daughter of the painter Abraham Janssens. The couple had eleven children.[9] In 1630 Jan became the Dean of the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke. This was a period marked by success and one in which Jan continued to paint works based on his father’s compositions, a practice he would follow at least until the early 1650s. This is also when the artist was deemed to be at his best.[10]

Ambrosius Francken the Younger was the son of the Antwerp master Frans Francken the Elder. In all likelihood his pupil, Ambrosius never married and lived in his father’s house with his brother Hieronymus the Younger, who was also a painter. Their middle brother Frans Francken the Younger was the most prominent member of the Francken dynasty of painters, which spanned four generations. Only a few facts are known about Ambrosius’ career. In 1623/24 he became a free master in the Antwerp guild of St. Luke. Upon the death of Abraham Govaerts in 1626, Ambrosius was one of the artists entrusted to complete his landscapes with the addition of figures. He had his first pupil in 1623/24 and another in 1629/30, although their identities are unknown. A painter of history, mythology, religious subjects and genre, his style throughout is close to that of his brother Frans Francken the Younger. Works by the artist can be found in the Church of St. Carolus Borromeus, Antwerp; Kunstmuseum, Basel; and Musée Municipal, Soissons.[11]

When Jan Brueghel the Younger took over his father’s workshop at the end of 1625 until the early 1630s, there is very little difference in the quality and craftsmanship of its production. In Dr. Ertz’s opinion the “very high quality” of Allegory of Abundance is a testimonial to the veracity of this statement. After his father died, Jan continued collaborations with artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, Hendrick van Balen, and Joos de Momper, which had begun with his father. As Dr. Ertz pointedly remarks, artists of this caliber would not have continued this practice if the son’s skill had been insufficient, irrespective of their past friendship and alliances with his father. Besides Ambrosius Francken the Younger, other collaborators included Hendrick de Clerck, Hieronymus van Kessel, Pieter Snayers, Lucas van Uden, Theordor van Tulden, Frans Wouters, and Pieter van Avont. Such collaborations were extremely common in Antwerp especially in the first half of the seventeenth century. The genius of Jan Brueghel the Younger and his associates is the seamless transition between alternating hands in one work.

The methodology behind the creation of Allegory of Abundance would have begun with Jan Brueghel the Younger painting a general impression of the landscape and positioning the trees. It is also possible that he outlined the placement of the figures. The painting then would have been delivered to Ambrosius to insert the figures. Dr. Ertz has noted that it is especially in the painting of the putti scattered throughout that Ambrosius’ style is most obvious. Then the panel would have been returned to Jan who completed the flowers, vegetables, animals and landscape. By working in such a manner the impression of uniformity was preserved and the transition from one hand to another almost imperceptible. Dr. Ertz has further characterized the quality of how the landscape and figures relate in Allegory of Abundance as “outstanding.”[12]

Upon first reflection, Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hendrick van Balen’s Landscape with Venus, Bacchus and Ceres in the National Gallery, Prague appears identical to ours in quality, size and content. The difference is noticeable only in the stylization of the figures executed by Ambrosius. Although positioned exactly the same, the colors of the garments have been altered, with the groups of the mid and background completely changed. Out of the public eye for over 100 years and feared lost in the chaos of World War II, the reintroduction of this visual feast intended as an object of wonderment, presents a rare opportunity for the acquisition of a masterwork by two young artists at the peak of their careers.

We are indebted to Dr. Klaus Ertz for confirming Allegory of Abundance as an autograph work by Jan Brueghel the Younger and Ambrosius Francken the Younger, executed circa 1630 in Antwerp.

 

 

 

[1] Ertz, op. cit. 1984, p. 381.

[2] Written communication from Dr. Klaus Ertz dated Lingen, November 14, 2013.

[3] Written communication from Dr. Klaus Ertz dated Lingen, November 20, 2013.

[4] James Hall, “Ceres” in Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art, Harpers Row, Publishers, New York, 1974, pp. 62-63.

[5] Arianne Faber Kolb, Jan Brueghel the Elder, The Entry of the Animals into Noah’s Ark, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2005, p. 31.

[6] Anne T. Woollett, “Two Celebrated Painters: The Collaborative Ventures of Rubens and Brueghel, ca. 1598-1625” in Rubens & Brueghel, A Working Friendship, exhibition catalogue, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles and traveling, July 5-September 24, 2006, pp. 2, 10.

[7] Hans Vlieghe, Flemish Art and Architecture 1585-1700, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1998, p. 180.

[8] Kolb, 2005, p. 81.

[9] Ertz, op. cit., 1984, pp. 95-101; and Ertz, op. cit., November 20, 2013.

[10] Ertz, op.cit., November 20, 2013.

[11]Biographical information taken from J. de Maere & M. Wabbes, “Ambrosius II Francken” in Illustrated Dictionary of 17th Century Flemish Painters, La Renaissance du Livre, Brussels, 1994, text volume, pp. 164-165, plates volume A-K, pp. 431-433; and Ertz, op. cit., November 20, 2013.

[12] Ertz, op.cit., November 20, 2013.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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