Jan Brueghel the Elder
RIVER LANDSCAPE WITH BATHING FIGURES AND BOATS
Oil on copper. 17 x 23 cm.
Jan Brueghel the Elder has tackled the charming motif of bathers alongside a river meandering through a Flemish village a total of three times (cf. Ertz, vo. 1, p. 290ff, no. 134 and 135). The imposing sailing boats link the present painting closer to the one sold at Sotheby's in London in 2009, than the third, found in a private Viennese collection, which does not include such voluminous sails. All three versions were probably produced in Antwerp shortly after the artist's return from Italy between 1595 and 1600 and demonstrate Breughel's development in pictorial imagery with the reduced division of fore-, middle- and background characterized by brown, green and blue tones, which points towards the breakthrough in landscape painting of around 1600.
The narratively rich depiction of village life in Flanders makes the small copper plate particularly attractive. The thatched crofts, houses with northern stepped gables, late Gothic church halls and the lightly suggested windmills in the background provide the framework for a variety of characters going about their daily business. One can see a woman feeding her chickens, a man walking his dog and several figures in the hefty sailboats and smaller rowing boats. The most attractive motif must be however the villagers in the foreground having fun bathing.
Roger H. Marijnissen, Ellezelles, 9.11.2004. - Klaus Ertz, Lingen, 12.7.2010.
From a Belgian private collection.
Klaus Ertz: Jan Brueghel der Ältere (1568-1625), Lingen 2008-10, vol. IV, p. 1634, no. Add. 7, col. ill. p. 1632.