A Brueghel Drawing Acquired by Lille

Jan Brueghel the Elder,
called Velvet Brueghel (1568-1625)
Rocky Landscape with Saint Jerome in his Cave
c. 1795
Pen and Brown Ink, Brown Wash
Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts

24/1/13 - Acquisition - Lille, Musée des Beaux-Arts - The Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille recently exhibited several works by Velvet Brueghel lent by different European establishments [1] in the show Fables du paysage flamand (see article, in French), but last April it acquired its own drawing by the artist, representing a Rocky Landscape with Saint Jerome in his Cave. Formerly in the Mariette Collection, with the corresponding stamp apparent on the lower right, before passing through various other private collections, it was purchased via the offices of the auctioneers Mercier & Cie, with help from the government and the region - thanks to the Fonds du Patrimoine and the FRAM (Fonds Régional d’Acquisition des Musées) - for a total of 140,000€.

Dating from around 1595, this drawing appears to have been executed during the artist’s trip to Italy while in the service of Cardinal Federico Borromeo, between 1590 and 1597. It depicts Saint Jerome doing penance in the Chalcis Desert in Syria, located a few kilometres away from Antioch, glimpsed atop a hillside in the left portion of the background. The saint, who had devoted himself to the study of the Bible, is seen in the shadow of the cave as denuded as the arid landscape surrounding him. Everything in the motifs and the technique - the pen and brown ink strokes are dry and dense - underscores the ascetic character of the scene. This theme was also developed in a small oil on copper, Landscape with Saint Jerome at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich [2] while a painting of the same subject resides in a private collection and an engraving by Aegidus Sadeler (circa 1570-1629) reproducing the Lille drawing in reverse belongs to the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest [3].

The drawing will join the works by his older brother, Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564-1637/38) already residing in Lille, but is the first by Jan "Velvet" Brueghel, until now absent from the collections. In fact, the family dynasty will be highlighted soon during its presentation to the public from 13 February to 20 May 2013. It will hang alongside the original engravings of The Seven Capital Sins by their father, Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1528-1569), as well as The Census at Bethlehem by his brother, the latter to be presented in a tactile version for the visually impaired. The works of two contemporary plastic artists inspired by this Flemish family will round out the temporary exhibition.

Version française

Julie Demarle, samedi 2 février 2013


[1] Notably four paintings forming the series of elements from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon and three small oils on copper from the Colonna Collection residing in Rome - Christ in Limbo, Aeneas Led to Hell by the Cumaean Sibyl and Pluto, Proserpina and Orpheus.

[2] The Alte Pinakothek in Munich will present an exhibition on Jan "Velvet" Brueghel from 22 March to 16 June 2013.

[3] The last two pieces of information were provided by the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille.

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