PAUL BRIL (1554-1626)
MOUNTAINOUS LANDSCAPE WITH SATYRS AND GOATS BY A CASCADE
Signed P. BRILL D, oil on canvas
65 x 89.5cm.
Literature: Unpublished; to be included in Drs. Luuk Pijl's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Paul Bril's paintings in oil.
Provenance: In all likelihood Cornelis van der Geest, Antwerp, 1626; Thomas Ware Smart (1810-1881), Australian art dealer and businessman who had an art gallery at Mona in Sydney; thence by descent to the present owner.
The present painting is an exciting and important discovery. It precedes a late masterpiece by the master, sold at Sotheby's New York, 29th January 2015, lot 33. Painted in Rome, it must have arrived in Antwerp already during Bril's lifetime where it stood model for Marten Ryckaert's renditions of the scenery. Ryckaert made a career imitating the inventions of Paul Bril and Jan Brueghel. The present painting is, in all likelihood, the very painting that has a prominent place in Willem van Haeght's Cabinet of Cornelis van der Geest, painted in 1626.
The most influential landscape painter of his time, Paul Bril was born in Breda in 1553 or 1554. He trained in Antwerp with the unknown Damiaen Ortelmans and, only 14 years sold, supported himself by painting landscapes on harpsichords. He travelled to Rome in 1576, where he joined his elder brother Matthijs, who was involved in fresco painting. After Matthijs's premature death in 1583, Paul succeeded him on several Papal commissions in the Vatican and in various churches and villas in and around Rome. He played, not only artistically but socially, a crucial role in the Eternal City. He was principe of the Accademia di San Luca and a member of the society called Virtuosi al Pantheon. Furthermore, Bril introduced Jan Brueghel to the important patron Cardinal Federico Borromeo; he was the best man at the marriage of the influential German painter Adam Elsheimer; and he housed Bartolomeus Breenbergh for many years. The master died in Rome in 1626, leaving a large oeuvre of wall decorations, etchings, drawings and paintings. His work paved the way for Claude Lorrain who would become the most important landscape painter in seventeenth century Europe.
The present painting is related to the slightly more elaborate work by Bril, mentioned above. The Sotheby's New York painting has two deer in the foreground whereas our work shows nymphs and satyrs. The auctioned painting is dated 1619 and, since the present work is somewhat less detailed, it must predate it. Thus a date for our painting in the period 1616-1619 is feasible. While the painting was in Antwerp it was copied by Marten Ryckaert. One version by Ryckaert after Bril was sold at Sotheby's London, 6th July 2006, lot 119. Another rendition was recently sold in Munich at Hampel Fine Art Auctions, 25th March 2021, lot 640, as by Paul Bril, but the execution clearly indicates it should certainly be assigned to Ryckaert, whose handling is less painterly. An exciting aspect of the present painting is that it must be the very work that is prominently included in the famous Cabinet of Cornelis van der Geest painted by Willem van Haeght in 1626. Bril's work is placed on the floor behind the figures at the left section of the composition. The landscape painting rendered in the cabinet painting shows exactly the same composition and the same landscape elements as our painting. Theoretically, we cannot rule out that van der Geest owned a picture by Ryckaert but, given the prominence of van der Geest's collection, we can safely assume that he owned the real thing.
We are grateful to Drs. Luuk Pijl for compiling this footnote, based upon a clear photograph of the picture (June 2021)
£50000 - £70000