Jan Brueghel The Young - inv. 1041
This small painting on copper shows a scene of village life as lived on a river in Holland. Men, women and children in two boats in the foreground are getting ready to land. Other boats are sailing with sails unfurled, or are moored to the bank. On the right a large tree acts as a backdrop; behind it, various travellers are crossing a bridge, while other figures are dotted along the riverbank.
This way of describing village life – here probably a Sunday scene – is typical of Jan Brueghel the Elder, responsible for many landscapes of this genre. It was a new landscape genre conceived by the artist at the beginning of the seventeenth century in which water flows uninterruptedly from the lower edge of the painting to the horizon line.
Jan Brueghel II, the Younger, often repeated his father’s works. Indeed, the painting discussed here is a copy, with some variations, of a painting by Brueghel the Elder, now in the Museum of Nantes, which belongs to this ‘frontal canal’ type.
Compared to the model, the arrangement of the boats and figures near the landing stage is different, while the shape of the banks is less sinuous: in fact, in the original, the bank proceeds in a great sweep after the point of dry land the tree stands on, which Jan II eliminated. A slight difference can be noted on the pictorial level too: there is less fineness and lightness in the brushwork, which Brueghel the Elder was famous for. Nevertheless, it is a very pleasant painting demonstrating the success of Brueghel the Elder’s inventions, so skilfully spread by his son.