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Jan Brueghel the Younger

1601 – Antwerp – 1678

Jan Brueghel the Younger, the eldest son of Jan 'Velvet’ Brueghel and his first wife, Isabelle de Jode, was born in Antwerp on 13 September 1601. In 1603, while still very young, his childhood was overshadowed by the death of his mother. Jan was initiated in the art of painting in his father’s studio. He was almost fifteen years old when his father thought of sending him to Italy – a plan that was made all the easier since ‘Velvet’ Brueghel had a noble patron in Milan, Cardinal Borromeo. He only left in May 1622. He did indeed stop in Milan where he entered the Cardinal's inner circle before continuing on his way to Sicily. However, the sudden death of his father in 1625 brought his trip to an end. He returned to Antwerp on 12 August 1625, where he immediately registered as a member of the Guild of St. Luke and the adjoining 'De Violieren' Chamber of Rhetoric. He was promoted to dean of the guild in 1630. He took over the management of the family studio and wrote of his activities in a diary he kept between 1625 and 1651. In 1626, Jan married Anne-Marie Janssens, daughter of the famous painter Abraham Janssens, in the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp.

Although he remained close to his father's subjects, he did however renew their design, adapting to the desires of his contemporaries. He substituted the mannerist style, prevalent until then, with a more realistic, simple and light-hearted art. In his exceptionally elegant floral paintings, he abandoned compact compositions and treated each richly sculptured flower as an entity in itself, thus revealing the beauty of each one. He therefore depicted a space where more freely organised forms were painted with a succession of precise and rapid strokes, and given generous and deep contours. Today, his work is admired by connoisseurs and his skill is such that his works are sometimes confused with his father’s. Helped by the incredible softness of his palette, his art excels as much in the landscapes featuring rivers or woods enlivened with figures, as in his still lifes. The smooth, glossy colours reflecting the same enthusiasm that renders each painting a feast for the eye, make Jan Brueghel the Younger, through his personal endeavours, a precursor of modern painting.