After Sale of the 9th Auction
After Sale Price: € 5.056
Antwerp 1573 – 1647 Antwerp, Attributed
Oil on oak panel
24,5 x 36,5 cm, with frame 37,5 x 50 cm
This masterpiece is associated with seasonal paintings derived from calendar illustrations in medieval books of hours. Such depictions were extremely popular in Flemish painting around 1600, leading some renowned artists such as Pieter Brueghel II or Abel Grimmer to produce these series. The painting represents a version of “Spring” in the seasonal cycle, which can be attributed to Sebastian Vrancx, a genre painter and master of the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke. It dates to the first quarter of the 17th century and is an allegorical painting depicting the respective season with its associated human activities and landscape changes.
The central rooster is particularly eye-catching with two hens, which are just being fed by a farmer’s wife in the left half of the picture; behind her is a child. Another hen is drinking from a large water trough, and another is breeding in a cage, placed in the lower left corner of the picture. Behind them are tools of field work such as a pitchfork, a wagon wheel and, a raffia basket. In the middle ground a dog, shown in rear view, is barking at a fully loaded carriage, with which a farmer is probably transporting away further tools for working the fields. In the foreground on the right half of the picture, a calf is being led by a man, suggesting spring, especially the months of April and May. Behind them, a woman balances a water jug on her head. In the idyllic background, a farmhouse with all kinds of tools and a small Gothic church can be seen. The water in the middle ground and in the left half of the picture reveals a view of a town veduta in the distance. While two women are engaged in conversation in the central background, a farmer is working the fields in the central axis. He is probably supplying the soil and the freshly cultivated grain with water, as he seems to be drawing from a watercourse in which ducks are swimming about. Overall, the trees framing the picture space bear only a few leaves; the entire landscape must first recover from the hardships of winter.
While several versions of Vrancx’s winter paintings are known, this spring painting is a rarity. Only in 2013 was a painting with a similar composition sold at auction at Sotheby’s New York for a high price. The small-format painting is particularly captivating because of the stylised, lovely simplification of the genre scenes, contrasted by a high degree of detail, for example in the presented work utensils of the figures. The everyday objects contribute to the seasonal symbolism of the painting and are skilfully included by the master painter. The figures appear vivid and approachable through the saturated palette and active gestures, with the googly-eyed animals in various poses being the real eye-catchers of the overall composition.
H.J. van Miegroet, “‘The Twelve Months’ Reconsidered: How a Drawing by Pieter Stevens Clarifies a Bruegel Enigma,” Simiolus, Vol. 16, No. 1 (1986), 29-35.
Vrancx, Sebastian. In: Hans Vollmer (ed.), Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart. Founded by Ulrich Thieme and Felix Becker. Volume 34, Leipzig 1940, pp. 567-568.
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