Our selection of Old Masters focuses on the North European schools:
Early Flemish and German Renaissance painting.
We focus particular attention on the Brueghel Dynasty, a school representing in reputation, value and importance, the absolute excellence of Flemish art.
Finally, we also offer a selection of works from the Dutch Golden Age.
Jan Brueghel II and Frans WoutersAllegory of fire
Oil on panel
Expertise K. ErtzFamous member of the so-called “Brueghel Dynasty”, Jan Brueghel II is considered one of the most eminent and representative Flemish artists of the full 17th Century. His prosperous artistic career can be summed up through the reiteration of his father's stylistic elements, disseminated with excellence and diligence that could attribute him the merit of having made the "Brueghel style" famous all over the world, in turn associated with Flemish art for excellence. If many of the compositions and iconographic solutions used by Jan II owe paternal inventions, starting from the second half of the Century the painter's style and inventiveness became more aware and autonomous, allowing him to best express his potential. Our work belonging to the allegorical genre is a perfect example of this awareness. The large format and perfectly preserved painting depicts the War in an allegorical key, through its declination in a technical / practical sense and by means of a series of symbolic figures.
Ambrosius Francken IICrucifixion
Oil on panel
Expertise Jan de MaereAmbrosius Francken II, also called the younger, to distinguish him from his uncle of the same name, was born at Antwerp in the latter part of the 16th century. He studied under his father, Frans Francken the elder, whose style he imitated. In 1624 he was registered as a master in the Guild of St. Luke at Antwerp, and he is said to have painted some time in Leuven. He died in 1632. Little else is known of him.
Jan van Kessel the YoungerStill life with squirrel, parrot and porcelain bowls
Oil on canvas
We are grateful to Klaus Ertz to have confirmed the attributionJan van Kessel II counted his uncle Jan Brueghel the Younger among his teachers. He joined the Antwerp painters' guild in 1645 and specialized in small-scale pictures of subjects gleaned from the natural world such as floral still lifes and allegorical series showing animal kingdoms, the four elements, the senses, or the parts of the world. Obsessed with picturesque detail, van Kessel worked from nature and used illustrated scientific texts as sources for filling his pictures with objects represented with almost scientific accuracy. Scholars trace many of van Kessel's subjects back to a prototype by some eminent predecessor. Joris Hoefnagel's works inspired van Kessel's sensitive and delicate drawings of insects and flowers, executed mainly in watercolor on parchment. Van Kessel showed a preference for beetles, caterpillars, and butterflies and occasionally arranged caterpillars to spell out his name. The works of his grandfather Jan Brueghel the Elder, Roelandt Savery, and Frans Synders influenced his paintings of animals. His paintings frequently exhibited a fascination with the bizarre, the exotic, and even the grotesque, as in his Cannibalistic Indians. In his later years, he had to mortgage his possessions to pay off his debts.
Kerstiaen de KeuninckMountain Landscape with a river
oil on panel
1620 ca.This large panoramic landscape view, dominated by fantastic mountains and rock formations, is a work of the middle period of the artist and was probably painted in Antwerp. A more precise comparison can be made with the works created around the period 1610 - 1615 in Antwerp, when the artist was in close contact with Alexander Keirincx and the Francken family. The landscapes of this period were all large works of horizontal format and followed a very precise compositional scheme. A diagonal divides the work in two parts, tracing a clear division between the action in the foreground and the immense rock formations on the background. On the opposite side, the artist often placed a theatrical backdrop formed by trees, whose fronds follow an accentuated winding line. In the central area an isolated rocky pillar is often connected by natural bridges or arches with the rest of the composition. The figures, small and secondary in the whole scene, are usually sketched at a later time, when not entirely delegated to specific collaborators. The figures of Tobias and the Angel were the artist's favourites. Hunters, pilgrims and shepherds with goats were also appreciated. It illustrates his concern with contrasting pictorial effects—such as heavy passages of opaque paint set off against areas sketched in a very thin medium—and with bold motifs like the water spray formed by flicking the brush. We mention, as primary comparision examples, the Landscape with Hunter preserved in Braunschweig, which has almost an identical setting and The Rocky Landscape preserved in Vienna where several elements return in a mirror-like manner: the castle (the only difference is the castle location: on the opposite side), the creek, the shape of the woods and the foliage of the trees, as well as the goats that can be seen in the foreground.
Christiaen van CouwenberghThe finding of Moses
Oil on panel
Signed and dated 1640
Published:Wolfgang C. Maier-Preusker, Christiaen van Couwenbergh (1604 – 1667) oeuvre und wandlungen eines hollaendischen caravaggisten, ed. Wallraf-Richartz-Jaharbuch – Band LII-1991.
We are grateful to Professor Wayne E. Franits to have confirmed the quality and the attribution of the workVan Couwenbergh was one of the leading Delft history painters during the first half of the seventeenth century, and his style was influenced by both the Haarlem and Utrecht history painters, as well as the Northern caravaggesque school.
Frans Pourbus IPortrait of young man
Oil on panel
We are grateful to Koenraad Jonckheere to have suggested the current attributionThis newly discovered portrait is a handsome addition to the small group of paintings that we know of by Frans Pourbus the Elder, son of the Bruges painter Pieter Pourbus (c.1523 – 1584), and father to the great international court painter Frans Pourbus the Younger (1569 – 1622). Frans Pourbus the Elder’s portraits demonstrate remarkable powers of observation. The features of the man in our portrait, with his subtly modelled flesh, angular face, high cheekbones, long nose and heavy lidded eyes have been notably individualized. He gazes directly and somewhat seriously at the viewer, his brow furrowed and contemplative. The portrait as a whole is an astute psychological study of a man in his prime, presumably in his late twenties. This little portrait comes from a prestigious provenance, the collection of the Duke of Hamilton during XIX century and, subsequently, through somes noble properties, a patrician roman collection. All the passages of property, since 1882, are documented through the labels affixed on the back of the painting.
Jan van Kessel The ElderStudy of insects with a flower of Borago Officinalis
Oil on copper
Published and exhibited:"Brueghel. Capolavori dell'arte fiamminga". Venaria Reale, Torino, 2017.
Expertise Klaus ErtzPaintings of this kind, in which Jan van Kessel the Elder was the supreme master, represent a very special category of still-life. Although his grandfather, Jan Brueghel the Elder, and his uncle, Jan Brueghel the Younger, were outstanding still-life painters, only Van Kessel was such a skilled specialist in the reproduction of insects. The artist attained this capacity to observe and represent each specimen so carefully that every insect can easily be identified by modern entomology. A sprig of common borage (Borago officinalis) in flower is delicately poised at the center of the composition. All around it swarm myriads of insects, including two species of moths, two butterflies, some beetles, a beautiful dragonfly, a wasp, a ladybird and many other flying insects. Butterflies and moths are depicted with wings both outspread and closed, while other insects are placed in different positions on different ideal planes, viewed now from above, now from the side or in perspective. The simultaneous use of different viewpoints, which makes the space of the painting "impossible", is not to be attributed to some technical limitation on the part of the artist but rather a conscious artistic choice. Van Kessel was clearly used to working at first on a series of independent studies, and only subsequently (and as required) he recombined them into the overall work. This choice meant representing the ideal coexistence of insects differing widely by region and time of year, intellectually collected and exhibited to the viewer as if emerging from a completely encyclopaedic and mental cataloguing. The work is painted on copper, an exceptionally smooth and glossy medium, ideal for Van Kessel's meticulous and refined technique, heightening the brilliancy of the colours and endowing the individual brushstrokes with a vividly enameled chromaticism. Paintings like these, which made the artist world famous, can be considered authentic
Jan Brueghel II and Pieter van AvontLandscape with Holy Family
Oil on copper
Expertise K. ErtzMagnificent example of collaboration, following the widespread practice in Antwerp in the seventeenth century, between Brueghel the II as a landscape specialist and van Avont as a "staffage" painter, i.e. the painting of the characters. The composition is among the most famous of Brueghel the II and it was copied and imitated by many followers, due to its ability to combine the best sacred subject and the ideal landscape. By this way the evangelical episode of the rest from the escape into Egypt becomes the expedient to stage a nature with bright colors, with rich turquoise and aqua green accents, enhanced by a vast range of naturalistic details: from the rose garden to the right, to the fruits on top, from the deer that drinks in the crystalline stretch of water to the guinea pigs in the foreground. The very thin copper leaf on which the work - in perfect condition - was painted is of considerable size and it is likely that it was destined for the Spanish and Mexican market, according to a widespread commercial practice in vogue from the years '40 of the '600. Thanks to this practice the Flemish painting on copper of "brueghellian-style" had a diffusion and an unusual worldwide success. It is the undoubted ability of the "Brueghel style" to conquer the eye with such incredible ease, dissolving the most typical stylistic matter effortlessly and with infallible method, chiseling the details as in a goldsmith's work and always choosing a vibrant chromatic accord, with the objective to stimulate the gaze. The fat children who surround the Holy Family, then, add a further tone of delicacy to the scene, through an anecdotal and joyful attitude, full of "joie-de-vivre".
Monogrammist HSThe Ill Matched Lovers with a Monk
oil on panel, cm 28x42,5.
We are grateful to Cranach Research Insitute and Dr. Peter Schmelzle to have confirmed the attribution of this work.Monogrammist HS (Active during the first part of XVII Century). Rare and enigmatic painter from Basel, a pupil of Lucas Cranach, specialized in the representation of allegorical subjects often soaked in a taste for the grotesque, erotic and enigmatic. Compared to his master, Krodel presents harsher tones, with female bodies represented in ivory color and smooth as porcelain, with the characters depicted close to their caricature, deliberately in an anti-classical and anti-Italian key.
Jan Brueghel II and Pieter van AvontVirgin with Child into a Landscape
Oil on copper
With antique frame
Expertise K. ErtzDelicious, minute work by Jan Brueghel the Younger in collaboration with P. van Avont for the figurative part, with a coeval frame and in perfect condition. This type of painting was intended for private devotion and / or ornamental use for the "cabinet des interieurs", where they were arranged to cover entire walls, along with other works. This kind of use can be clearly seen on the paintings depicting these galleries and often made by Frans Francken and Adriaen van Stalbempt, with an advertising function in order to show the works available on the Antwerp market. Stylistically, the work presents the pictorial tendencies of Jan II on his way to a greater detachment from his father's dictates, with the use of a darker chromatic range and the landscape conception as a visual glimpse attributing airiness and depth to the main scene. The meticulous rose garden on the right, the flowers and fruits at the feet of the Virgin represent an unmistakable stylistic code of the author. As always, Brueghel reveals his ability to maintain an excellent quality even in apparently secondary details, that marks the real difference between the Master and his followers.
Gillis MostaertLandscape with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
olio su tavola
Expertise Luuk PijlRenowned painter, he specialised in landscapes and deserved an honourable mention in The Lives by Giorgio Vasari due to his already considerable fame at the time. Mostaert was one of the most intelligent interpreters of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s lesson, from whom he was able to deviate thanks to his inventiveness and through the creation of a distinctive style. The naïve mood can be regarded as a "work of subtraction", aimed at removing every formal and unnecessary element and at reducing the graphic sign, in order to leave room for large fields of bright and contrasting colours. The fantastic views that fill his paintings bursts with small figures, often made by other painters specialised in the staffage. Our composition is also known in another variant by the same author, whose subject is, however, the Autumn season and it differs in a significant number of details, both compositional and chromatic. The use of basic patterns to create several paintings was a widespread and established practice since Henri met de Bles. Mostaert was not far behind, often using the trick of changing the colours in which the characters or minor details were completed, as well as with the reversal or re-composition of various parts of the general scheme. However, starting from an identical basic structure and achieving such original and autonomous results is extremely rare.
Adam van NoortMadonna and Child with Saint Joseph
>Oil on panel79,4 x 56,8 cm 1580 ca.
Archived in RKD as Adam van Noort.Defined by Van Mander in 1604 as a "very skillful painter," van Noort is part of the Flemish painting already influenced by Italian art. He was stranger to the prevailing fashion, Van Noort managed one of the most popular ateliers in Antwerp and he was able to cope with a large number of students, including those who later became great masters such as Rubens (from 1592) and Van Dyck, who also made a famous portrait of his teacher. Known for his alternating moods, his life as a libertine and, often, his violence, Van Noort was always conscious of the limitations and skills of his students, directing their careers also through the collaboration with the atelier of Otto Van Veen. His works were mainly biblical and of allegorical disobedience and portraits made for the Sint-Lucas gilde (the author was a member) have not been preserved. The work, part of the prestigious Goudstikker collection, is considered as of today one of the most significant - and certain of attribution - still in private hands. Despite the religious subject, the scene is treated with an extreme naturalism, aiming to portray a simple mother with a child in a moment of lyrical intimacy rather than something grand and academic. The sculpted cradle, together with details such as the cushion and the string of pearls on the Madonna's forehead, are remarkable for their realistic rendering. The paneggi, the incarnate and the architectures on the background, however, are clearly of Italian influence.
The Master with the ParrotMadonna with Child (Virgo Lactans)
oil on panel
1530 ca.The author takes his name from an in-depth article that the art historian Maximilian Friedlander dedicated him in 1948, where the scholar gathered a first number of works around a personality whose name was at the time unknown, but it turned out to be enough clear from a stylistic point of view. The curious nickname derives from the insistence and typicality that we can find in a certain number of works where the presence of a parrot is shown. However, as of today it is possible to assign to the artist a more varied and broader number of works, also thanks to the recent discovery of a Madonna and Child (without parrot) signed in full "Cornelis Bazelear Fecit" of unquestionable stylistic clarity. In addition to this, it has been hypothesized with ample plausibility that the painters working around and under Bazelaer constituted a substantial workshop which, between Antwerp and Bruges, carried out in a unitary style a series of devotional works, especially intended for the international market. The practice was very widespread also in other ateliers (Pieter Coeck, Joos van Cleve, etc.) and basically indicates a conception of the work of art as produced in two phases, a first theoretical conceived by the Master and a second one often realized by his students. In the best examples, like this one, the Master of the Parrot shows a delicate style, a wise synthesis between the Bruges tradition - still archaic - and the innovations of plasticism and the use of light that Pieter Coeck, Jan Gossaert and Quantyn Metsys were gradually introducing into the flemish painting of Antwerp. The pearly complexion, the intimate mother-son relationship and the meticulous details of the crown accentuate the refined devotional and symbolic tone, thanks to the contribution of the dark background from which the figures emerge as in a sacred vision.