Pieter Brueghel II
Preparing the Flower Beds, from "The Seasons", c. 1620
Oil on panel
Gift of Mrs. (Marjorie W.) Sherburne Prescott
Dimensions: Framed: 24 x 30 x 2 in. (60.96 x 76.2 x 5.08 cm)
Unframed: 16 3/4 x 22 15/16 in. (42.55 x 58.26 cm)
Signatures, Inscriptions and Markings v
Signed (LL): P. BREVGHEL.
Examined--no further evidence (cradled).
Catalogue Raisonné: ERTZ, Vol. 2, p. 592, ng. E615
Paris, Charpentier (Galleries?) Sale, May 12, 1948, no. 31.; Victor Decock, Paris; Paris, Gallieria, Sale June 15, 1962, no. 61; Gallery Terry Engel (London?); Erich Mueller-Stinnes; London, Sotheby’s Sale, July 6, 1966; Mrs. Sherburne Prescott; VC Art Gallery, 1973.
Published References v
Ivory Hammer 4: The Year at Sotheby’s and Parke-Bernet. 1965-66, p. 7. (reproduces Vassar painting as in collection of the late Mr. Erich Muller-Stinnes);
R. Hughes, and P. Bianconi, The Complete Paintings of Bruegel, 1967, p. 118. reproduced drawing and engraving;
Connaissance des Arts, Jan-June, 1968, “Bruegel et son fils.” pp. 94-100;
George Marlier, Pieter Bruegel le Jeune, Brussels, 1969, p. 218-23. (reviewed Revue Belgique, 1969, pp. 120-2);
“Important Old Master Paintings,” Sotheby’s auction catalogue, Thursday, January 21, 1982, lot nos. 17 and 126;
Sotheby’s International preview, November/December 1984, p. 117;
Helene Mund, Contribution a l’etude de Pierre Brueghel le Jeune;
Ertz, Vol. 2, p. 592, ng. E615.
Exhibition History v
New York, New York, IBM Gallery of Science and Art, “Highlights from the Vassar College Collection,” July 13 - September 11, 1993;
Poughkeepsie, FLLAC, Vassar College, “Second Sight: Originality, Duplicity and the Object,” Jan. 14-Apr. 10, 2005.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger, the eldest son of the great Flemish painter of peasant genre scenes of the same name, and the brother of Jan Brueghel, the floral painter, followed very directly the successful model of his father and provided many copies and variants of his father’s themes to the Flemish art market. In the case of Spring, it is one of four depictions of the seasons of the year made as a set of engravings by Pieter van der Hayden after drawings by Pieter the Elder. The prints were published by the workshop of Hierony- mous Cock in 1570. It is possible that the elder Brueghel also executed a set of paintings on this theme that was recorded in a mid-eighteenth-century in- ventory of the Viennese Schatzkammer (treasury). It is clear that the younger Brueghel made quite a cottage industry from copying the designs of his father, for there are at least ten surviving versions of this painting alone. The painting portrays the seasonal outdoor labors of springtime in the manner of calendar illuminations from medieval books of hours. A group of male and female peasants cultivate a geometric arrangement of raised flowerbeds already featuring the early blooming tulips, while two fine ladies visit the garden. Behind them, two laborers prune a fruit tree while others shear sheep in the middle ground below. In the background beyond the garden, peasants dance outdoors and a field is used to bleach linen in the sun. Such a painting, probably executed in the early seventeenth century, testifies to a later generation’s interest in benign and nostalgic genre painting of a bygone era.