Pieter Breughel II (Brussels 1564-1637/8 Antwerp), Portrait of a young man. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2011
oil on panel, 4 7/8 in. (12.5 cm.) diameter - Estimate $50,000 - $70,000
Provenance: Private collection, Paris.
with P. de Boer, Amsterdam, 1956.
Notes: This gentle painting of a young man displays the sentimental side of Pieter Breughel the Younger's portraiture. Rather than invoking the mask-like, caricatured faces found in many of Breughel's figures, here he displays a sympathetic approach to the subject. Loose, unfinished brushstrokes compose the shimmering, golden background, while Breughel's relaxed technique lends a more effusive quality to his subject's face. Although turned slightly to the left, the young man gazes directly forward, as though shyly turning from the artist or spectator. His flushed checks inform the portrait with an innocence not often captured by Breughel.
Reminiscient of an earlier portrait by his father, Pieter Breughel the Elder's Head of a Peasant Woman (c. 1568), the present work highlights the influence of the father in its sympathetic treatment (see M. Sellink, Bruegel. The Complete Paintings, Drawings and Prints, New York, 2007, p. 257). Notably, however, Breughel the Younger's portrait displays less restraint in its painterly treatment. The bold rendering of the young man displays the remarkable range of Breughel's skill and provides a rare insight into artist's broad oeuvre.
We are grateful to Dr. Klaus Ertz for confirming the attribution, after first-hand inspection (written communication, 13 December 2010).
Christie's. Old Master & 19th Century Paintings, Drawings & Watercolors Part I, 26 January 2011, New York, Rockefeller Plaza www.christies.com