Paul Bril (Flemish, Antwerp 1554 - 1626 Rome)
Landscape with Nymphs and Satyrs, 1623
Signed lower right: PAOLO BRILL / 1623
Oil on canvas
27 3/4 x 40 5/8 in. (70.5 x 103.2 cm)
Friends of Art Fund, A. Augustus Healy Fund, R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund and Charles F. Olney Fund, 1953
Oberlin's Landscape with Nymphs and Satyrs exemplifies the serene "classical" compositions found in Paul Bril's ideal landscapes of the 1620s.
Shadowy coulisses of trees frame a level field in the foreground of the scene, which leads to a still pond and distant gently rolling hills. The subtle, sophisticated variation of colors in the foliage, and the alternate overlapping of light and dark forms within the landscape, achieve an effect of spatial recession more natural and convincing than in Bril's earlier, rather formulaic Mannerist landscapes. The soft, greenish light bathing the scene is another hallmark of Bril's late style.
As noted by Stechow and others, 1 similar landscape elements--particularly the massive tree in the right foreground--are found in the roughly contemporary Landscape with Tobias and the Angel, formerly in Dresden, signed and dated 1624. 2 The Oberlin landscape is more accomplished and thus certainly later than the Landscape with Pan and Syrinx, in San Francisco, which has been dated to about 1620. 3 Stechow also noted a drawing of a closely related composition in the Louvre, which is datable to the early 1620s. 4
The elegiac company of nymphs and satyrs in the right foreground of the Oberlin painting was probably painted by another hand, as occurs regularly in Bril's works from the 1620s. Stechow proposed "an Italian hand," possibly Agostino Tassi (1581/2-1644) as the author of these figures; 5 Salerno rejected this attribution and convincingly suggested instead the hand of Pietro Paolo Bonzi (ca. 1575-1636; also called "Gobbo dei Carracci"). 6 Versatile if not supremely gifted, Bonzi painted in a variety of genres--figures, landscapes, fruit and flower still lifes--and is known to have not only collaborated with (and copied) Bril during the 1620s, but also contributed figures to landscape paintings by Francesco Albani, Pietro da Cortona, Filippo Napolitano, Agostino Tassi, and Giovanni Battista Viola. 7 The static and slightly awkward figures in the Oberlin Landscape with Nymphs and Satyrs reflect Bonzi's characteristic style.
M. E. Wieseman
One of the most influential Italianate landscape painters in the Netherlands, Paul Bril was born in Antwerp in 1554. His father and brother Matthijs (ca. 1550-1583) were both landscape painters as well. In 1574 Bril traveled to Rome via Lyon; the first documented reference to the artist in Rome is his admission to the Accademia di San Luca in 1582. Bril was named "Principe" of the Accademia in 1620, and "Secondo Consigliere" in 1624. Bril worked predominantly in fresco during the 1580s; his earliest dated easel painting is from 1594 (Germany, private collection). He was also a prolific draughtsman and etcher. Early works (before 1600) are distinctly Flemish in character, with vigorously charged Mannerist forms and an artificially defined aerial perspective. Later works (after about 1600) betray the influence of Annibale Carracci, Domenichino, Girolamo Muziano (1532-1592), and others, and are characterized by more classically organized horizontal compositions and a more naturalistic palette.
Mayer, Anton. Das Leben und die Wercke der Brüder Matthäus und Paul Bril. Leipzig, 1910.
Faggin, G. T. "Per Paolo Bril." Paragone 16, no. 158 (1965), pp. 21-35.
Salerno, Luigi. Pittori di paesaggio del seicento a Roma (Landscape Painters of the 17th Century in Rome).
Vol. 1. Rome, 1977, pp. 12-29.Berger, Andrea. Die Tafelgemälde Paul Brils. Munster and Hamburg, 1993.
Collection Earl of Lonsdale, Lowther Castle, by 1854 (but not in Lonsdale sales of 1879, 1887, or 1899)
Collection Alan P. Good, Glympton Park, Woodstock, Oxfordshire
His sale London (Sotheby's), 15 July 1953, lot 8 (£360, to de Boer)
With Kunsthandel P. de Boer, Amsterdam, from whom purchased in 1953
Delft, Antiekbeurs, 1953.
New York, M. Knoedler & Company, Inc., 1954. Paintings and Drawings from Five Centuries: Collection Allen Memorial Art Museum. 3 - 21 February. Cat. no. 38.
Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University, Fogg Art Museum, 1955. Landscape: Massys to Corot. 6 May - 3 June. Cat. no. 1.
Lexington, University of Kentucky Art Gallery, 1967. Masterpieces from University Collections. 9 April - 10 May. No cat.
The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1973. Dutch Art and Life in the Seventeenth Century. 10 July - 2 September. No cat.
New York, Wildenstein Gallery, 1978. Romance and Reality: Aspects of Landscape Painting. 18 October - 22 November. Cat. no. 10.
Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario, 1980. Man and Nature: A View of the Seventeenth Century. 14 August - 28 September. Cat. no. 2.
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 1993-94. The Age of Rubens. 22 September - 2 January (also shown at Toledo Museum of Art). Cat. no. 85.
Waagen, G. F. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. Vol. 3. London, 1854, p. 260.
Stechow, Wolfgang. "A Landscape by Paul Bril." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 12, no. 1 (Fall 1954), pp. 23-31.
Faggin, G. T. "Per Paolo Bril." Paragone 16, no. 158 (1965), pp. 24f., 33 no. 67 (composition analogous to Dresden Landscape with Tobias and the Angel), 35.
Stechow, Wolfgang. Catalogue of European and American Paintings and Sculpture in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College. Oberlin, 1967, p. 24, fig. 51.
Salerno, Luigi. "Il vero Filippo Napolitano e il vero Tassi." Storia dell'Arte 6 (1970), p. 149.
Levey, Michael. National Gallery Catalogues: The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Italian Schools. London, 1971, p. 213 n. 1.
Salerno, Luigi. Pittori di paesaggio del seicento a Roma (Landscape Painters of the 17th Century in Rome). Vol. 1. Rome, 1977, pp. 16, 28, fig. 220. Vol. 3. Rome, 1980, pp. 994 n. 28, 1005 n. 52.
Sutton, Denys. In Romance and Reality: Aspects of Landscape Painting. Exh. cat., Wildenstein Gallery, New York, p. 13.
Scott, Glen T. In Man and Nature: A View of the Seventeenth Century. Exh. cat., Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario, pp. 30-31, cat. no. 2.
Harris, Ann Sutherland. In Landscape Painting in Rome 1595-1675. Exh. cat., Richard L. Feigen & Co., New York, 1985, p. 102 n. 2.
Howard, Seymour. "Carraccesque Landscapes by Bonzi." Gazette des Beaux Arts, ser. 6, vol. 112 (December 1988), p. 244 n. 31.
Duparc, Frederik J. In Italian Reflections: Dutch Painters of the Golden Age. Exh. cat., The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1990, p. 106, fig. 44.
Liedtke, Walter et al. Flemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp, 1992, p. 320, no. 131.
Berger, Andrea. Die Tafelgemälde Paul Brils. Munster and Hamburg, 1993, pp. 171 n. 116, 201.
Sutton, Peter C. In The Age of Rubens. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1994, pp. 470-71, cat. no. 85.
The canvas was lined in the nineteenth century and the original tacking margins removed. The reddish ground is moderately thick, but does not completely obscure the texture of the canvas support. There is some low impasto in the foliage and landscape forms. At the center right, evidence of brushwork texture that does not correspond with the visible image may indicate changes in the position of the tree branches in this area. Aside from minor inpainting at the left, right, and bottom edges, and scattered throughout the trees and foreground area at left, the painting is in good condition. Localized areas of cleavage in the sky have been consolidated, probably during the lining process.
1. Wolfgang Stechow, "A Landscape by Paul Bril," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 12, no. 1 (Fall 1954), pp. 29-30.
3. Oil on canvas, 48.6 x 70.5 cm, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, inv. 49.11. See Frederik J. Duparc, in Italian Reflections: Dutch Painters of the Golden Age (exh. cat., The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1990), p. 106.
4. Wolfgang Stechow, "A Landscape by Paul Bril," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 12, no. 1 (Fall 1954), p. 28; see Frits Lugt, Musée du Louvre, Inventaire général des dessins des écoles du nord, école flamande, vol. 1 (Paris, 1949), no. 423.
5. Wolfgang Stechow, "A Landscape by Paul Bril," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 12, no. 1 (Fall 1954), pp. 30-31; Michael Levey, National Gallery Catalogues: The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Italian Schools (London, 1971), p. 213 n. 1.
6. Luigi Salerno, "Il vero Filippo Napolitano e il vero Tassi," Storia dell'Arte 6 (1970), p. 149, and Pittori di paesaggio del seicento a Roma (Landscape Painters of the 17th Century in Rome), vol. 3 (1980), p. 994 n. 28. Salerno also attributed to Bonzi the figures in Bril's Landscape with Nymphs and Satyrs, dated 1621 (London, collection Denis Mahon) and Landscape with Diana and Callisto (Paris, Musée du Louvre).
7. On Bonzi and his collaborations with other artists, see Seymour Howard, "Carraccesque Landscapes by Bonzi," Gazette des Beaux Arts, ser. 6, vol. 112 (December 1988), pp. 227-49; and Luigi Salerno, Pittori di paesaggio del seicento a Roma (Landscape Painters of the 17th Century in Rome), vol. 1 (Rome, 1977), pp. 100-111.