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Landscape with Tobias and the Angel

Artist: Brueghel the Elder, Jan
(Brussels 1568 – 1625 Antwerp)

Date: ca. 1595
Medium: pen, brush, dark brown, light brown, greyish-blue, blue ink on paper
Dimensions: 202 x 313 mm
Classification: drawing
Inventory Number: 1307
Department: Prints and Drawings

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+Description

Landscape with Tobias and the Angel

The younger son of the great Pieter Bruegel, Jan Brueghel is one of the key figures of Flemish landscape painting around 1600, while his father was one of the leading lights of his and following generations for over a century. He had a large impact on landscape painting in all its aspects - in the representation of forests, mountains, riverbanks, winter scenes or the sea; and not only on Flemish, but also on Dutch art. Jan Brueghel generally based his landscapes on Pieter Bruegel's compositions, but he developed them significantly and incorporated the ideas of his age. The drawing in Budapest, which Jan Brueghel based on two works by his father, is a good example of his method and novel aspirations. One of the two drawings by Pieter Bruegel is the Mountain Landscape with Donkeys and Goats, known only through a copy (Chicago Art Institute) - Jan Brueghel takes the motif of the high stand of trees from this. The other work is a print by Jan and Lucas van Duetecum, after a sketch by Pieter Bruegel, called Milites Requiescentes. The elaboration of the three distinct spatial grounds in this print and the motifs illustrated in it were influential on Jan. Whereas there are many elements of late Mannerism here, such as the use of a high horizon and distinct planes that are separate in terms of colour, the realism of the scene has noticeably increased in the details.

By comparing the engraving and the drawing, it becomes clear that Jan Brueghel's work is by no means a simple copy. Rather, it is a well thought-out structure, distinct in its artistic elements. It was the beginning of a process to represent reality more convincingly. The reduction of motifs renders the composition simpler, airier and easier to read than Pieter Bruegel's work. These sorts of changes in Jan Brueghel's work were followed by newer and even more radical ones. He worked on compositions of this type for more than a decade, allowing us to follow the continual evolution of his oeuvre step by step. In the years following the creation of this work, he made variations on it in painting and drawing alike, each more successfully demonstrating his mastery of the continuity of space. The horizon was gradually lowered, the motifs were further reduced and the whole composition became more lucid. Based on an analysis of the stylistic characteristics of the Budapest work, it can be dated to 1595-1596, towards the end of Jan Brueghel's sojourn in Italy. By then, after several years in Rome, he had moved to Milan, accompanying his patron, Cardinal Federico Borromeo, for whom he made an entire series of landscapes. Aegidius Sadeler, a well-known Flemish graphic artist also living in northern Italy during this period, made an engraving of Landscape with Tobias and the Angel. This and other reproduced compositions by Jan Brueghel ensured that his influence had a far-reaching effect.

Text: © TERÉZ GERSZI