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The Preaching of John the Baptist

Bartholomeus Breenbergh (Dutch, Deventer 1598–1657 Amsterdam)

Date:
1634
Medium:
Oil on wood
Dimensions:
21 1/2 x 29 5/8 in. (54.6 x 75.2 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Purchase, The Annenberg Foundation Gift, 1991
Accession Number:
1991.305
  • Gallery Label

    This well-preserved picture by Breenbergh, a pioneer of Italianate landscape painting, dates from a few years after his return from Rome to Amsterdam. The subject of Saint John preaching in the wilderness was often employed by Dutch artists as an analogy to Protestant worship when the Netherlands was still ruled by Catholic Spain.

  • Catalogue Entry

    This well-preserved panel of 1634 has long been recognized as one of Breenbergh's finest works. The artist had recently settled in Amsterdam, and the most highly regarded history painter in that city, Pieter Lastman (1583–1633), had just died. It is possible that Breenbergh intended the picture as a special demonstration of his abilities. The dramatic distribution of Roman ruins, castles, and hill towns in a panoramic Italian landscape, the remarkably diversified survey of curious types in the crowd around John the Baptist, the choice of a biblical subject that had particular resonance in the Netherlands, and the care devoted to bywerck (as embellishments or accessories were called in contemporary descriptions of paintings), like the repoussoir of plants and still-life elements in the foreground, suggest that after a decade's residence in Rome the artist intended, by producing masterworks like this one, to make a name for himself in his native country.

    The Preaching of John the Baptist was a popular subject in Netherlandish art, as Spanish suppression of Protestant worship had given rise to the Calvinist response of hagepreken (hedge preaching) to large crowds in the fields surrounding Antwerp, Breda, and 's Hertogenbosch. This practice spread to Holland in July 1566, when mass sermons were held outside Hoorn (where Breenbergh probably grew up) and elsewhere. More relevant to Breenbergh's picture is the fact that a considerable number of Dutch artists had treated the same subject between the 1590s and the 1630s (Liedtke 2007).

    The picture was in particularly distinguished collections between the 1770s and the 1840s. Johan van der Marck, who bought it at auction in 1768, was a four-time burgomaster of Leiden and a director of the West Indies Company in Amsterdam. At the sale of his estate in 1773, the painting was bought by the dealer Pieter Fouquet, who acted for or sold it to Pierre-Louis-Paul Randon de Boisset, the receiver general of France. At his estate sale of 1777, the work went to the great collector Joseph-François, comte de Vandreuil. In about 1802, the painting was sold by a Parisian dealer to Pieter van Winter, a wealthy merchant in Amsterdam, who in the preceding thirty years had formed one of the greatest private collections in the Netherlands. The collection was inherited by his daughters; when Lucretia, the elder, married Hendrik Six van Hillegom in 1822, the painting passed to that famous family of collectors.

    [2011; adapted from Liedtke 2007]

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): B.B.f. A 1634

  • Provenance

    ?sale, Amsterdam, September 12, 1708, no. 12, for fl. 450; ?sale, Amsterdam, May 7–8, 1709, no. 9 for fl. 150; ?sale, Amsterdam, July 17, 1709, no. 15, for fl. 430; ?sale, Amsterdam, March 22, 1720, no. 2, for fl. 310; Theodore Boendermaker and his wife, Jacoba Elisabeth ten Grootenhuys, Amsterdam (until 1768; her estate sale, Amsterdam, March 30, 1768, no. 2, for fl. 510 to Van der Marck); Johan van der Marck, Leyden (1768–73; his estate sale, Amsterdam, August 25, 1773, no. 30, for fl. 800 to Fouquet); [Pieter Fouquet, Amsterdam, from 1773]; Pierre-Louis-Paul Randon de Boisset, Paris (until d. 1776; his estate sale, Rémy and Julliot, Paris, February 27ff., 1777, no. 96, for Fr 5,019.19); Joseph-François, comte de Vaudreuil, Paris (1777–84; his sale, Le Brun, Paris, November 24ff., 1784, no. 49, for Fr 4,990 to Lenglier); sale, Paillet and Delaroche, Paris, July 19–29, 1802, no. 13, for Fr 1,581 to Paillet; [Alexandre Paillet, Paris, 1802; probably sold to Van Winter in or shortly after 1802]; Pieter Nicolaas Simonsz. van Winter, Amsterdam (in or shortly after 1802–d. 1807); his daughter, Lucretia Johanna van Winter, Amsterdam (1807–22); Lucretia Johanna van Winter and her husband, Hendrik Six van Hillegom (1822–both d. by 1847); their sons, Jan Pieter Six van Hillegom and Pieter Hendrik Six van Vromade, Amsterdam (1847–51; their anonymous sale, de Vries, Roos, and Brondgeest, Amsterdam, November 25, 1851, no. 7, for fl. 250 to Nieuwenhuys); [Nieuwenhuys, Brussels and London, from 1851]; Charles Scarisbrick, Scarisbrick Hall and Wrightington Hall, Lancashire (until d. 1860; his estate sale, Christie's, London, May 10–25, 1861, no. 675, for £28.10 to Bohn); Henry George Bohn, North End House, Twickenham (1861–d. 1884; his estate sale, Christie's, London, March 19ff., 1885, no. 200); J. Passmore Edwards, London (until 1902; sale, Christie's, London, April 7, 1902, no. 60, for £19.19 to Schroeder); Baron Karl Kuffner de Dioszegh, Castle Dioszegh, Dioszegh, Czechoslovakia (until 1940); his son, Baron Raoul Kuffner de Dioszegh and the Baroness de Dioszegh [the painter Tamara de Lempicka], New York (1940–48; their sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, November 18, 1948, no. 29, for $475); [Paul Drey, New York, in 1948]; [Julius Weitzner, New York; sold to Chrysler]; Walter P. Chrysler Jr., New York (by 1951–at least 1958); [M. R. Schweitzer, New York, until 1969; sold for $24,000 to Humann]; Christian Humann, Paris (1969–73; sold for $90,000 to Feigen); [Richard L. Feigen, New York, 1973–91; sold to MMA]

  • Exhibition History

    Hartford. Wadsworth Atheneum. "The Life of Christ," March 12–April 25, 1948, no. 54 (as "The Sermon on the Mount," by Breenbergh, lent by Paul Drey, New York).

    Coral Gables, Fla. University Art Gallery, University of Miami. "Old Dutch Masters II from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," February 6–March 9, 1951, no. 11.

    Birmingham, Ala. Birmingham Museum of Art. "An Exhibition of Dutch, Flemish and German Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," 1957–58, unnumbered cat. (p. 9).

    Washington. George Washington University. "An Exhibition of Dutch, Flemish and German Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," 1957–58, unnumbered cat. (p. 9).

    Atlanta Art Association and High Museum. "An Exhibition of Dutch, Flemish and German Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," 1957–58, unnumbered cat. (p. 9).

    Columbus, Ohio. Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts. "An Exhibition of Dutch, Flemish and German Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," 1957–58, unnumbered cat. (p. 9).

    Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. "An Exhibition of Dutch, Flemish and German Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," 1957–58, unnumbered cat. (p. 9).

    Columbus, Ga. Columbus Museum of Arts and Crafts. "An Exhibition of Dutch, Flemish and German Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," 1957–58, unnumbered cat. (p. 9).

    New Orleans. Isaac Delgado Museum of Art. "An Exhibition of Dutch, Flemish and German Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," 1957–58, unnumbered cat. (p. 9).

    West Palm Beach. Norton Gallery of Art. "An Exhibition of Dutch, Flemish and German Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," 1957–58, unnumbered cat. (p. 9).

    Columbia, S.C. Columbia Museum of Art. "An Exhibition of Dutch, Flemish and German Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," 1957–58, unnumbered cat. (p. 9).

    Chattanooga. George T. Hunter Gallery. "An Exhibition of Dutch, Flemish and German Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," 1957–58, unnumbered cat. (p. 9).

    New York. Richard L. Feigen & Co.. "Landscape Painting in Rome, 1595–1675," January 30–March 23, 1985, no. 11 (lent from a private collection).

    New York. National Academy of Design. "Dutch and Flemish Paintings from New York Private Collections," August 10–September 5, 1988, no. 7 (lent by Richard L. Feigen).

    Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. "Italian Recollections: Dutch Painters of the Golden Age," June 8–July 22, 1990, no. 23 (lent by Richard L. Feigen, New York).

    The Hague. Mauritshuis. "Great Dutch Paintings from America," September 28, 1990–January 13, 1991, no. 14 (lent by Richard L. Feigen, New York).

    Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. "Great Dutch Paintings from America," February 16–May 5, 1991, no. 14 (lent by Richard L. Feigen, New York).

    New York. Richard L. Feigen & Co.. "Bartholomeus Breenbergh," November 20–December 20, 1991, no. 12.

    Amsterdam. Rijksmuseum. "The Glory of the Golden Age," April 15–September 17, 2000, no. 91.

    Poughkeepsie. Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College. "Time and Transformation in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art," April 8–June 19, 2005, no. 53.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009, online catalogue.

  • References

    Gerard Hoet. Catalogus of Naamlyst van Schilderyen, met derzelver pryzen, zedert een langen reeks van Jaaren zoo in Holland als op andere Plaatzen in het openbaar verkogt. 1, The Hague, 1752, pp. 125, no. 12, p. 132, no. 9, p. 135, no. 15, p. 240, no. 2, lists four paintings by Breenbergh of this subject in four sales in Amsterdam in the early eighteenth century, including their sale prices, all possibly this picture.

    [F. C. Joullain]. Répertoire de tableaux, dessins et estampes, ouvrage utile aux amateurs: premiere partie. Paris, 1783, p. 26, records the price at the Randon de Boisset sale of 1777 as "5019 liv. 19 f.".

    Alfred von Wurzbach. Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon. 1, Vienna, 1906, p. 179, lists it as formerly in the collections of Randon de Boisset and, erroneously, Gerrit Braamcamp.

    Ebria Feinblatt. "Note on Paintings by Bartholomeus Breenbergh." Art Quarterly 12 (1949), pp. 268, 271, fig. 3.

    Clara Bille. De Tempel der Kunst of het Kabinet van den Heer Braamcamp. Amsterdam, 1961, vol. 2, p. 90, clarifies that the MMA painting was not the work once owned by Gerrit Braamcamp.

    "Notable Works of Art Now on the Market." Burlington Magazine (Supplement) 111 (June 1969), unpaginated, pl. XXIX, as at the Schweitzer Gallery, New York; erroneously as formerly in the collections of Rubens and Gerrit Braamcamp.

    Jacques Foucart in Le siècle de Rembrandt: Tableaux hollandais des collections publiques françaises. Exh. cat., Petit Palais. Paris, 1970, p. 29, under no. 28, relates it to Breenbergh's "Christ Healing the Sick" (Musée du Louvre, Paris), dated 163[?].

    R. H. Fuchs. "Rembrandt en Italiaanse Kunst: opmerkingen over een verhouding." Neue Beiträge zur Rembrandt-Forschung. Berlin, 1973, pp. 80–81, fig. 33, compares it with Rembrandt's oil sketch of the same subject in Berlin, finding Breenbergh's landscape more stagelike and Italianate.

    E. Bénézit. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs. new ed. Paris, 1976, vol. 2, p. 292.

    Luigi Salerno. Pittori di paesaggio del Seicento a Roma; Landscape Painters of the Seventeenth Century in Rome. Rome, 1976–80, vol. 1, pp. 239–40, fig. 41.22; vol. 3, p. 1000 n. 25, states that "the figures are taken from German prints, or perhaps from the 'Habiti militari' by Filippo Napoletano, and they seem to anticipate similar figures by Salvator Rosa".

    Marcel Roethlisberger. Bartholomeus Breenbergh: The Paintings. Berlin, 1981, pp. 17, 68, 80, no. 165, ill. (overall and detail), notes that the ruined amphitheater is inspired by the Coliseum and that the soldier leaning on a staff at lower right also appears in a painting of the same subject by P. Schoubroeck, in a print by Callot of Saint Amond preaching, and in a drawing by Filippo Napoletano.

    Bob Haak. The Golden Age: Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. New York, 1984, p. 144, fig. 298, as whereabouts unknown.

    Lisa Vergara. "New York: Roman Landscapes at Feigen." Burlington Magazine 127 (June 1985), p. 405.

    Ann Jensen Adams. Dutch and Flemish Paintings from New York Private Collections. Exh. cat., National Academy of Design. New York, 1988, p. 39, no. 7, ill. pp. 24–25 (color).

    Ben Broos. Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis. The Hague, 1990, pp. 197–203, no. 14, ill. (color), gives an extensive discussion of the provenance of the picture, identifying the MMA work as the one included in sales in Amsterdam in 1708 and 1709 [see Ref. Hoet 1752].

    Frederik J. Duparc and Linda L. Graif. Italian Recollections: Dutch Painters of the Golden Age. Exh. cat., Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Montreal, 1990, pp. 98–99, no. 23, ill. (color), see the influence of Paul Bril.

    Marcel George Roethlisberger. Bartholomeus Breenbergh. Exh. cat., Richard L. Feigen & Co. [New York], 1991, pp. 32–35, no. 12, ill. (color).

    Paul Jeromack. "Met Buys Breenbergh after Twenty-year Lapse." Art Newspaper no. 15 (February 1992), p. ?, ill., discusses the provenance of the picture.

    Walter Liedtke in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1991–1992." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 50 (Fall 1992), p. 31, ill. (color).

    Seymour Slive. Dutch Painting 1600–1800. New Haven, 1995, p. 227, fig. 306 (color).

    JoLynn Edwards. Alexandre-Joseph Paillet: Expert et marchand de tableaux à la fin du XVIIIe siècle. Paris, 1996, p. 310.

    Ruud Priem. "The 'most excellent collection' of Lucretia Johanna van Winter: The Years 1809–22, with a Catalogue of the Works Purchased." Simiolus 25, no. 2/3 (1997), pp. 121, 123, 188, 218, no. 28, fig. 31, provides new provenance information.

    Judikje Kiers and Fieke Tissink. The Glory of the Golden Age. Exh. cat., Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 2000, pp. 143, 342, no. 91, ill. (color and black and white).

    Mariët Westermann. Rembrandt. London, 2000, p. 118, fig. 73 (color).

    Susan Donahue Kuretsky. Time and Transformation in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art. Exh. cat., Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. Poughkeepsie, 2005, pp. 31, 211, 214–16, no. 53, ill. (color).

    Lynn Federle Orr in Time and Transformation in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art. Exh. cat., Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. Poughkeepsie, 2005, pp. 89–90.

    Ingrid Ciulisová. "Acquired and Dispersed: The Collections of Grazioso Enea Lanfranconi and Baron Karl Kuffner." Ars 40, no. 1 (2007), p. 62, fig. 7.

    Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. xi, 95–100, no. 22, colorpl. 22, fig. 18 (color detail).

    Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), p. 64, fig. 76 (color).

    Walter Liedtke. "The Milkmaid" by Johannes Vermeer. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2009, p. 21.



  • Notes

    Breenbergh later painted a larger version of this subject (Roethlisberger 1981, no. 203; Richard L. Feigen, New York).

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