de jonckheere old masters

Panel: 65,5 x 93 cm


The result of the collaboration between Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hendrik van Balen, this Allegory of abundance belongs to the grandiose line of Flemish painting dedicated to the allegorical portrayal of the seasons and their riches. Highly sought-after in the 17th century, the allegory genre developed bringing acclaim to our two painters. While Jan Brueghel the Elder exulted in painting a luxuriant, verdant background, Hendrick van Balen placed figures of an unequalled delicacy and elegance in this epicurean paradise.

In the bend of a path in the shade of the trees, Ceres, Flora and Bacchus come together to revel. Accompanied by putti, satyrs and nymphs, the three personified figures in the centre are celebrating the riches of Mother Nature. Cleverly organised and flooded by a halo of light according to Brueghelian tradition, our painting is an ode to abundance.

Just like in the allegories of the four seasons, especially spring and summer, the two painters adopt an effective sense of order. Both in the surrounding landscape and in the choice of figures, our painting is perfectly anchored in the models that constitute the allegories created by Brueghel and Hendrick van Balen. To emphasise perspective and depth, Jan Brueghel has painted two clearings in the forest, thus opening up the scene to the landscape in the distance. He plays on the contrasts of light and reveals all his talent as a colourist: the azure blue of the sky is echoed in the delicate little flowers scattered around the scene.

In the foreground, two fauns are stretched out on the ground, watching the gargantuan scene. The putti carefully pluck the bunches of grapes from the branches, while a vigorous satyr brandishes the white dish containing the precious nectar. Bacchus, dressed in a long red robe, invites the delicately languorous Flora to taste the grapes. Next to her, Ceres receives the brimming horn of abundance carried by four little cupids. In the distance, a nymph leads a donkey, undoubtedly laden with victuals, while the little grape-pickers shake themselves.

Bathed in light, a feast and piles of flowers lie on the ground. Herein resides the talent of our landscape painter: cut curcurbits, piles of fruit and vegetables, overturned dishes and small forest animals take part in the feast, giving the allegory all its power. Painted with a highly precise brushstroke and very delicate colours, the plant kingdom is cleverly organised by Jan Brueghel the Elder. In the foreground, irises, tulips, lilies, wild roses and daisies delicately bloom. In the background, the nymph Flora makes wreaths out of the multi-coloured flowers. At the feet of these celebrants, fruit and vegetables punctuate the space, just like in a still life, as well as two small guinea-pigs who have already taken their share. Perched high in the fruit trees, the monkeys and birds have not been forgotten. The branches of the trees, bending under the weight of ripe apples and pears, are fully garnished with tasty and colourful fruit.

Alongside the luxuriant nature, figures representing abundance also participate in the allegory. Hendrik van Balen, a master in the portrayal of divinities, depicts them here in all their splendour. Their bodies are formed of curved lines, whose physique and attitudes are clearly mannerist in style. Porcelain flesh for the goddesses, an angelic flesh tint for the cupids and sun-kissed skin for the satyrs, the light highlights these bodies sublimated by beautiful drapes. Red, blue, yellow or pink, the folds of the drapes mould the forms of the bodies; both taut yet flowing, they are clearly representative of Van Balen’s know-how.

A reflection of the alliance of two brilliant artists, this work, painted around 1615, brilliantly incarnates the successful production of our two artists. Several allegories on the theme of the seasons, the four elements and the five senses, were painted by our two artists; our painting, of which only one other known version exists in Glasgow, is an exceptional work full of verve and poetry, typical of works from Antwerp painted in the first third of the 17th century.

Provenance :
Colombo Collection;
Private collection.

Littérature :
K. ERTZ, Jan Brueghel der Ältere, 1979, Dumont Buchverlag, Köln, p.389, p.608, ill. P.390, pl.462;
K. ERTZ, Brueghel - Brueghel, Tradizione e Progresso: Una Famiglia di Pittori Fiaminghi tra Cinque e Seicento, exhibition catalogue, Cremona 1998.

Expositions :
Cremona, Museo Civico Ala Ponzone, Brueghel - Brueghel, Tradizione e Progresso: Una Famiglia di Pittori Fiaminghi tra Cinque e Seicento, 26 September – 20 December 1998.