Jan Brueghel the Younger - The Baptism of Christ
Jan Brueghel the Younger
The Baptism of Christ
Oil on copper. 33 x 45.5 cm.
The composition is based on a highly popular collaboration produced by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hans Rottenhammer. Klaus Ertz believes the earliest version to be that in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich (inv. no. L760; also shown at the Staatsgalerie, Augsburg), on copper, 33 x 44 cm, which is dated circa 1605. Rottenhammer and Brueghel are considered to have produced at least three versions, two sold in recent years on the art market by Lempertz (19.11.2011, lot 1227) and Christie's (4.12.2012, lot 21), with numerous subsequent versions including by Hendrick van Balen and Jan Brueghel the Younger.
Stylistically, the composition has its roots in Rottenhammer's Venetian influences from his time in the Italian city around 1589 and 1595-6. The painting shows direct relation to versions of the Baptism of Christ by Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese. Saint John pours water upon Christ's head, his arms crossed upon his chest, surrounded by winged putti and the Holy Spirit revealing itself above the scene. Jan Brueghel the Elder in Antwerp was sent these copper panels from Venice to produce the fine lace-like details of foliage and backdrop. This effect has been faithfully recreated here by his son, Brueghel the Younger, who was celebrated as the most skilled miniaturist amongst his dynasty and called “Velvet Brueghel” for his soft and accurate brushwork.
Fine cabinet-sized paintings of the Baptism of Christ on copper such as this were highly prized items in France from the 1700s onwards. At least three others appear in sales records, belonging to the Duc de Tallard, Cabinet de M. Blondel and M. de Merval. The present, ascribed to “M. de Villers” may refer to Michel-Maximilien Villers, a Parisian architect married to the celebrated painter Marie-Denise Villers. An extensive collection of his Dutch and Flemish cabinet pictures were sold at auction between March 31st and April 1st 1812 in Paris.
We are grateful to Dr Klaus Ertz for confirming the authenticity of this painting by Jan Brueghel the Younger.