The Bruegel Succes Story – Symposium XXI for the Study of Underdrawing and Technology in Painting

At the above symposium two presentations by CATS staff and their collaborators were presented:

The first presentation was The Father, the Son, the Followers: Six Brueg(h)els in Copenhagen Examined, by Anne Haack Christensen, David Buti, Arie Pappot (Rijksmuseum), Eva de la Fuente Pedersen and Jørgen Wadum.

The National Gallery of Denmark holds a hitherto unexplored group of paintings, some signed by or attributed to Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Pieter Brueghel the Younger, others as School of Brueg(h)el. These paintings have not previously been the subject of technical analyses nor have they been contextualized within existing research on the painting techniques of the Bruegel family. A thinly painted panel painting attributed to Pieter Bruegel the Elder is illustrating The Strife of Lent with Shrove-Tide (signed BRVEGHEL.1562 (?)) and depicts three faces modelled over an underdrawing in red chalk. A much larger panel signed by Pieter Brueghel the Younger depicts Christ on the way to Calvary (signed P.BRVEGHEL), one of several repetitions. By means of a range of technical analyses, including non-destructive dendrochronology, infrared reflectography and pigment identification the painting techniques of both paintings by father and son will be thoroughly documented.

Additionally, the copying practices or emulation of Brueghel imagery as found in four delicately rendered landscapes on copper by artists within the so-called ‘Brueg(h)el school’ will be studied. Two are attributed to Jan Brueghel the Elder or Pieter Brueghel the Younger; however, one has a maker’s mark on the verso dating after 1660. The techniques will be discussed in relationship to the autograph versions of the scenes as well as with current art historical interpretations of the longevity of an image over time.

The second presentation was An Enigmatic Panel Maker from Antwerp and His Supply to the Brueghels, by Jørgen Wadum and Ingrid Moortgat (independent researcher Antwerp).

Since the late 1980s, an enigmatic panel maker’s mark has been associated with a certain Guilliam Aertssen, ‘GA’. The ‘GA’ monogram seems to appear on panel paintings from as early as 1565 and through the first decades of the 17th century, including several significant paintings by the Brueghel family. This paper will describe the occurrence of the mark on panels by the Brueghels, their contemporaries and followers, and will provide new chronologies of its occurrence and design. High-resolution illustrations will accompany the paper (and a database under construction at the RKD: Marks on Art), which can be used as references for the identification of the more than four variations of the mark found over more than six decades. The connection of the ‘GA’ mark with the panel maker Guilliam Aertssen has therefore been increasingly difficult to substantiate.

New biographical research about the so-called ‘Aertssen’ panel maker(s) activity will be combined with the chronology of the ‘GA’-marks and will assist in clarifying his Aertsen’s complex activities and the timeline of the ‘GA’-marks. This may also help date the Antwerp brands found in conjunction with some of these marks. Archival findings regarding Guilliam Aertssen’s relationship with the art dealer Gaspar Antheunis will furthermore provide new insights in the panel making business and the trade in panels in the first decades of the seventeenth century.