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Jan brueghel I (1568-1625)

The penitent Saint Jerome in a landscape

To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale Week 10-13 December 2019

Lot 808. Jan Brueghel I (Flanders 1568‑1625). The penitent Saint Jerome in a landscape. Oil on copper, 11.5 x 14 cm.


400.000 – 500.000 SEK
€ 37.000 – 46.000


A Swedish Private Collection.

In context

Jan Brueghel I – The penitent Saint Jerome in a landscape

This exquisite landscape on just a small sheet of copper, which has recently surfaced from a Swedish private collection, is a hitherto unknown work by Jan Brueghel I, dating from circa 1597. Dr. Klaus Ertz points out that the painting is in perfect condition and of a very high quality. Its appearance is of importance as this is not only a beautiful example of Jan Brueghel’s art, showing his superb painterly skill in fine details, such as the owl in the back of the cave behind the Saint and the goat standing on the cliff overlooking the valley beyond, but also as it adds to Brueghel’s hitherto known interpretations of the theme demonstrating a further stage in the development of the landscape.

Jan Brueghel’s earliest depiction of the penitent Saint Jerome in a landscape dates from 1595 in a painting, now in a private collection, Belgium (signed and dated 15(9)5, copper, 22 x 32 cm; K. Ertz, 1979, no. 14; Ertz, 2008/10, no. 301), which was engraved by Aegidius Sadeler (Holl. no. 211). Here the landscape is dominated by a heavy rocky outcrop reminiscent of Joachim Patinir in the center, at the foot of which Saint Jerome kneels before an altar. In a painting of slightly later date, which was with Johnny van Haeften in 1985 (copper, 25 x 35 cm; Ertz, 2008/10, no. 300), the Saint is now shown in close up against a rocky wall, whereby a landscape view is cropped up in the upper left corner. Of some years later dates the painting now in the Alte Pinakothek. Munich, inv. no. 517 (signed and dated 159., copper, 26,2 x 35,4 cm; Ertz, 1979, no. 35; Ertz, 2008/10, no. 302), which shows Saint Jerome as a small figure in the lower left corner. Here the landscape is now opened up on the right, but is by its handling of light and dark and by its wild nature still mannerist in character. 

In the present painting, which Dr. Klaus Ertz dates to circa 1597, when Brueghel had returned to Antwerp from Italy, the view is naturalistic and combines an intimate wood seen from close by in the foreground with a view in a valley in the background. Such a combination of near and far, is one of the many inventions of the artist, by which he greatly contributed to the development of landscape painting in the beginning of the 17th century. Instead of the so called world landscape of the sixteenth century developed by his father Pieter Brueghel I and of which the influence is still visible in the landscape with travelers of circa 1600, in the Szepmuveszeti Museum, Budapest, inv. no. 563 (oil on panel, 35 x 41 cm; Ertz, 2008/10, no. 6), the present painting allows for more intimacy, which is enhanced by among others the inviting gaze of the lion and the small scale of the scene.

Saint Jerome (347-420) counts as one of the four fathers of the Church. Born in Dalmatia, his parents sent him to Rome to study, after which he spent some time in seclusion in the Middle East. There he learned the various languages, which later enabled him to translate the Bible from their original Hebrew texts into Latin. At the Council of Trent Saint Jerome’s translation was agreed as the preeminent Bible translation. Humanists praised the Saint for both his religious devotion as his knowledge of the antique.

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Julia Unge Sörling


Classic Art & Old Masters
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