DescriptionFRANS FRANCKEN II (Flemish 1581-1642) and JAN BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGER (Flemish 1601-1678)
The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and the Infant John the Baptist, Surrounded by a Garland of Flowers, circa 1630s
Oil on wooden panel
21-1/2 x 16-1/2 inches
Signed in the lower right corner of the medaillion, FFrancken d [...]
Galerie Sanct Lucas, Vienna, Austria;
Private Collection, Vienna, Austria;
Newhouse Galleries, New York NY;
Mr. and Mrs. F. Howard Walsh, Fort Worth, Texas;
Walsh Family Art Trust
Beginning around 1616 - 18 and continuing through the middle decades of the seventeenth century, numerous examples of a new type of painting, a kind of still life-cum-devotional image-began to be produced in quantity, particularly in Catholic Antwerp, where figure painters and still-life specialists were in abundance and routinely collaborated with one another. The artists who were among the earliest practitioners of this genre of devotional painting with its magnificent floral embellishments were in the circle of Peter Paul Rubens, namely Jan Brueghel I and his son Jan Brueghel the Younger, Hendrik van Balen, Frans Snijders, Frans Francken and his son Frans Francken II (the latter painted and signed the central medallion of the present work), Hans Rottenhammer, and Joos de Momper, among others.
The popularity of this type of devotional painting with floral accompaniments coincided with the popularity of the so-called "fifteen mysteries of the Rosary." The cult of the Madonna of the Rosary (Rozenkrans) arose in Antwerp in the late 1610s, where churches began commissioning the city's most prominent painters and sculptors to create large devotional images of the Virgin or episodes from her life framed with wreaths that resemble the shape of a rosary. In the work of some of the artists, namely Frans Francken II who was known to have painted both the figurative and the floral aspects of such paintings (usually on a smaller scale), the flowers in the wreaths around the central medallion resemble rosary beads: they are large and rest on the surface of the arrangement almost in the shape of a string (one such work by Frans Francken II, Madonna and Child, sold through Dorotheum, Vienna, Oct 14, 1997, lot 8). In the best-known examples of this genre, the Rubens-Brueghel I collaborations (see for example, their masterful Madonna in Floral Wreath of circa 1620 in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany), the wreaths are more densely packed with flowers of a variety of size, shape, and color, as they are in the present painting. The popularity of this type of devotional image is also recorded in secular works from the same period, notably in the elaborate views of the private picture galleries (the so-called kunst-und-wunderkammern) that often double as allegories of the senses (see, for example, the Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens collaboration, Allegory of Sight of circa 1618, in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain).
The present devotional painting with its brilliant floral wreath was a collaboration between Frans Francken II and the workshop of Jan Brueghel the Younger (Jan II). The younger Brueghel was the son of Rubens' frequent still-life collaborator, Jan Brueghel I. After studying with his father, Jan II traveled in Italy before taking over his father's studio upon the Elder's death in 1625. He became a leading artist in Antwerp, where he was elected to the painters' guild in 1625 and became dean in 1630-31.
Owing to the collaborative nature of artists' workshops in early seventeenth-century Antwerp, it is often difficult to distinguish the hand of the "master" from all the competent members of his studio whom he had personally trained. In the case of Jan Brueghel II, it appears that after his return from Italy and his assumption of his father's studio in 1625, his personal production was rather low. Only somewhat later, by the 1630s, did larger numbers of flower pieces and garlands of this type begin emerging from his workshop. Surviving documents show that by 1646, works from his studio were sold at the rate of about seven a month, suggesting that his entire family was actively involved in production (this includes his wife Anna Janssens, his sons Jan Peeter and Abraham, his nephew Jan (I) van Kessel, and possibly his brother Ambrosius). Because Jan Brueghel II's collaborator on this painting (Frans Francken II) died in 1642, the work cannot be considered one of the workshop's late productions. Its quality, rather, seems consistent with slightly earlier efforts of the 1630s, where there was more participation from the master himself.
Highly finished works such as this, which combine the specialized skills of history and flower painting, were prized cabinet pieces among seventeenth-century collectors.
Estimate: $80,000 - $120,000.
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