A Landscape with Troglodyte Goatherds
Paul Bril (Antwerp 1554 – Rome 1626)
Bril was a Flemish painter who worked in Rome from the 1570s and was greatly influenced by Italian landscape paintings and in particular by Annibale Carracci. This painting was probably executed in around 1610-15 when Bril had begun work on a larger scale canvas having previously specialised in smaller pictures on panel or copper. It was bought in 1754 by the 2nd Earl for £126 and the frame is early eighteenth-century French.
Oil painting on canvas, A Landscape with Troglodyte Goatherds by Paul Bril (Antwerp 1554 – Rome 1626). 1610-1615. Landscape, on the left-hand side is a rocky landscape with trees and goats and, on the right, across a valley can be seen a building.
The Bril brothers, Paul and his elder, Matthaeus (c.1550-1583) arrived in Rome at a time when areas of painting that had up until then been subordinate parts of greater wholes were about to become autonomous branches of art: marines, landscapes, still-lifes, &c. The trend with landscape was set by a Brescian steeped in Venetian painting, Girolamo Muziano (1532-92), who made it play an extensive part in the organisation and mood of his easel paintings and drawings - many intended for, and widely diffused by, engravings - of religious subjects. His manner of landscape delineation was taken up and turned into a special variety of fresco-painting in Rome - as Sydney Freedberg put it: "part fantasy, part ornament, and part wallpaper" - the first of whose practitioners was Matteo da Siena (1553-88). The Flemings, who had always been celebrated for landscape (vide Michelangelo's dismissive words: "In Flanders ... they paint stuff and masonry, the green grass of the fields, the shadow of trees, and rivers and bridges, which they call - 'landscapes', with many figures on this side and many figures on that. And all this, though it pleases some persons, is done without reason or art, without symmetry or proportion, without skilful choice or boldness and, finally, without substance or vigour") naturally gravitated to this speciality when they came to Rome to study Antiquity and perfect their art. Matthaeus Bril, who was in Rome by 1570, was one of the first to do so, and he seems to have been joined around 1575 by his younger brother Paul, though the latter's presence is not attested until 1582. Paul Bril's frescoes of the 1580s, after the death of his brother, in the Vatican and the Lateran Palaces, however, show him already open to a freer, more Italian way of painting . Paul Bril's early easel paintings - mostly small cabinet pictures on copper -are, however, quite different in character: intricate, precious, highly Mannerist compositions, still heavily indebted to the Flemish tradition. It was only, according to Baglione, when he received a fresh stimulus from the Italian tradition, under the influence of Annibale Caracci's approach to landscape in his paintings, that his easel pictures took on a different character: "he renewed his prima maniera Fiamenga ... by a greater rapprochement with nature, and with the buona maniera Italiana" . The result, significantly, was an explosion in demand for his landscapes, and in the prices that he asked for them - Flemish merchants being the greatest takers. That is, no doubt, why most of his easel pictures have, historically, been found in northern Europe. It would also seem to have been the case that it was around the same time that he expanded the size of his pictures, and that, to do so, and to facilitate a more Italian painterliness with the brush, he took more to using canvas. The present picture, though not signed or dated, appears to be a particularly fine example of the transitional phase from one manner to the other of painting, of around 1605-10, but before he had recourse to other - particularly Italian - artists for his figures (it is significant - though wrong - that when this picture was auctioned in 1754, the figures were said to be by Annibale Carracci), or was himself influenced by these. Bril's development has still not been the object of comprehensive study, but, amongst dated examples of his work, one can see particular affinities between this painting and the Landscape with the penitent Saint Jerome of 1609 in the Musée Granet in Aix , and with the Landscape with Hebe and the Eagle of Jove of 1610 (with the figures by Rubens) in the Prado . The undated Landscape with the Vision of Saint Eustace at Apsley House, the Landscape with Pan and Syrinx of 1624 in the Louvre, and the Landscape with the Temptation of Christ in the Wilderness of 1626 in the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery , show the final, yet looser, phase of this adoption of a more Italianate style. The superb early 18th-century French frame on this picture, and its dimensions, make it virtually certain that this was one of the more expensive purchases made by the 2nd Earl of Egremont: the Bril bought on his behalf by 'Anderson' at Dr. Bragge's sale on 24th and 25th January 1754, with a provenance from: "The Duke of Valentinois Collection". Jacques-François-Léonor de Goyon-Matignon, duc de Valentinois (1689-1751), became sovereign prince of Monaco through his marriage in 1715 to the last Grimaldi prince's daughter, but renounced the throne in favour of his son, because he preferred to go on living in Paris, in the hôtel de Matignon (now the residence of the Prime Minister of France), which had largely been completed and decorated for his father, the comte de Thorigny. The collections of the duc were some of the most sumptuous of their day: "One would need a whole volume to describe the full magnificence of the interior of this palace, which is matched by few in Italy. Everything in the way of what painting, sculpture, gilding, vases chased in silver and in bronze, can offer, that is exquisite to the eye, is to be found there in abundance. The Schools of Italy, Flanders & France make up the profusion of pictures to be seen there ...". Unfortunately, his confessor, the Théatine Father d'Héricourt: "pointed out to him, with justice, that many of his pictures, though of a great price, were not to be tolerated in the house of a Christian, because of the indecency and immodesty of the figures in them; & in consequence, the pictures were destroyed" . Certain of his pictures, such as this and Le Repas Italien by Lancret, which was acquired by Frederick the Great must have been sold privately soon after his death, though the bulk of his remaining collection was not dispersed at auction until 15 messidor l'an XI (=4th July 1803). The buyer of this picture, the Rt Hon. Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont (1710-63; there was no 1st Earl of Egremont as such: the ;title was bestowed, with special remainder, upon his uncle, the 7th Duke of Somerset), was a politician, gourmand, and equally voracious collector. His last office, that of Secretary of State for the Southern Department, combined two of these pursuits, in the shape of official banquets, à propos which he was heard to say shortly before his death: "Well, I have but three turtle dinners to come, and if I survive them, I shall be immortal". He didn't - they did for him instead. Already the inheritor of the fine collection largely formed by the 10th Earl of Northumberland, he was himself an active buyer in the salerooms, which were becoming the chief vehicle for the market in pictures in London, Paris, and Amsterdam at this very period; and at which, it is clear, members of the aristocracy much enjoyed seeking out pictures and bidding in person, or through agents . Sales were held at the rooms of such auctioneers as Cock or Prestage & Hobbs, by dealers such as Andrew Hay, Samuel Paris, or 'Dr' Robert Bragge, who imported whole batches of pictures from abroad, particularly from the better-organised auction-market in Paris. Contrary to his predecessor, Charles, 6th Duke of Somerset, who had kept many of his finest pictures at Petworth, the 2nd Earl kept almost all his Old Masters at Egremont House, Piccadilly (now the Naval & Military Club). Very regrettably, when his son, the 3rd Earl of Egremont, decided to give this up and move to a more modest house in Grosvenor Place in 1794, he simply sold off the bulk of the Old Masters there, in an anonymous two-day sale held at Christie's on 7th & 8th March. Other pictures, including probably the superb La Hire of The Departure of Abraham now in the Hermitage, left the collection in ways that have yet to be established. Thirteen of the finest pictures at Petworth, including Chardin's La mère laborieuse, which had been bought by the 2nd Earl at a sale held by the engraver-dealer Thomas Major in 1758, were winkled out of it by a fox-hunting colonel, probably working on behalf of the dealer Arthur Sulley, in 1927. Nonetheless, the present picture, Sébastien Bourdon's Joseph sold by his Brethren (bought at another sale of Dr. Bragge's, 18th & 19th February 1756, 2nd day, lot 71) and David Teniers's wonderfully apt The Archduke Leopold Wilhelm's Picture Gallery (bought at the sale of one John de Pesters, 1st & 2nd April 1757, 2nd day, lot 31) still survive at Petworth, amongst other pictures, particularly the Dutch ones, to commemorate the 2nd Earl's enthusiasm as a collector. (i) Painting in Italy 1500-1600, revised paperback edn., 1975, p.657. (ii) Francisco de Hollanda, Four Dialogues on Painting, transl. Aubrey Bell, 1928, 1st Dialogue, p.16. (iii) See Anton Mayer, Das Leben und die Werke der Brüder Matthaeus und Paul Bril, Leipzig, 1910. (iv) Giovanni Baglione, Le Vite de'Pittori, Scultori, et Architetti ... del 1572 ... a ... 1642, Rome, 1642, pl. p.297. (v) J. de Maere & M. Wabbes, Illustrated Dictionary of 17th Century Flemish Painters, Brussels, 1994, p.172. (vi) Giorgio T. Faggin, 'Per Paolo Bril', Paragone, XVI/185 (1965), pp.23 & 32 & pl.30. (vii) Faggin, 1965, cat. 44, pp.25, 32, pl. 43a. (viii) Mémorial de Paris, ibid., 1749, vol.I, pp.214-215; Mémoires du duc de Luynes, Paris, 18[--], vol.XI, p.85: both quoted in the Livre-Journal de Lazare Duvaux, ed. Louis Courajod, Paris, 1865, vol.I, pp.xxi & cccxxvi. (ix) See Georges Wildenstein, Lancret, Paris, 1924, no.77 & exh. cat. Le rue de Varenne, Musée Rodin, 1981, p.36. (x) See Louise Lippincott, Selling art in Georgian London: The Rise of Arthur Pond, New Haven & London, 1983; and Iain Pears, The Discovery of Painting: The Growth of Interest in the Arts in England 1680-1768, New Haven & London [the allusions to the disposals of the 2nd Earl's pictures in the notes on p.261 of this are incomplete and, in some cases, inaccurate]. (adapted from author's version/pre-publication, Alastair Laing, In Trust for the Nation, exh. cat., 1995)
Acquired in 1730 by Jacques-Francois-Leonor de Goyon-Matignon, duc de Valentinois (1689-1751), hotel de Matignon, Paris (and put in its current frame); sold privately. Bragge's sale, Prestage's, 24-25 January, 1754, 2nd day, lot 63; bought by 'Anderson' on behalf of the 2nd Earl of Egremont for £126; thence by descent, until the death in 1952 of the 3rd Lord Leconfield, who had given Petworth to the National Trust in 1947, and whose nephew and heir, John Wyndham, 6th Lord Leconfield and 1st Lord Egremont (1920-72) arranged for the acceptance of the major portion of the collections at Petworth in lieu of death duties (the first ever such arrangement) in 1956 by HM Treasury.
Petworth House, The Egremont Collection (acquired in lieu of tax by HM Treasury in 1956 and subsequently transferred to the National Trust)
Marks and inscriptions
Verso: PAUL BRILLE / DUC DE VALENTINOIS/1730 (Transferred inscription on lining-canvas)
Makers and roles
Paul Bril (Antwerp 1554 – Rome 1626), artist
In Trust for the Nation, National Gallery, London, 1995 - 1996, no.36
Remastered - Bosch to Bellotto: An Exhibition of Petworth's European Old Masters (exh cat) (Andrew Loukes) Petworth House, West Sussex, 9 January - 6 March 2016, cat. 35, p. 19