de jonckheere old masters

Sebastian Vrancx

Pair of landscapes: summer and autumn

Canvases: 119 x 162 cm


Often associated with painting ambushes and battles, the art of Sebastian Vrancx also has ties with the great Flemish tradition of painting the seasons. Bearing witness to the artist’s talent and great poetry, these two examples – which were significantly influenced by his recent trip to Italy – are typical of the style of the early 17th century. Just like Paul Bril and Willem van Nieulandt, Vrancx devoted himself to painting scenes of everyday life in a landscape inspired by antiquity. These scenes of rural life are transposed into idealised landscapes, whose ruins and more modern follies are the mark of the work of Hans Vredeman de Vries.

In these two paintings representing summer and autumn, the artist is in full possession of his faculties. In a panoramic landscape, whose foreground is dotted with numerous characters, we are surprised to discover the finesse of the painting and the great attention to detail. Besides the warm light enveloping this summer scene, the harvesting in the middleground makes it very easy to determine the season. In the foreground, foreshortened by an overhang, Vrancx places a crowd of figures, some of whom are conversing in front of a melon-seller’s stall, while others bathe or rest. In the distance, horses arrive laden with hay. In the middle, a folly divides the painting in two; on the right, at the top of the hill, we can see a mansion.

In the painting of autumn, harvesting has been replaced by grape-picking and the various activities this involves: picking the fruit in the vineyards, pressing, hooping the barrels and transporting the produce on mules. The various actions are taking place in the shelter of a picturesque farm. Vrancx shows great originality in the attitudes of his numerous figures: a young woman strikes a pose with her basket and observes a young boy disguised as Bacchus, god of the vine and its related pleasures. On either side of the turret are typically Roman buildings: on the left, an imposing palazzo, on the right, the forum or campo vaccino where cows and sheep are grazing. Here, we can easily see the influence of the artist's trip to Italy between 1596 and 1601, which left an indelible mark. He creates a perfect synthesis between views of Italy and painting the months and seasons, a particularly popular subject in 17th century Flanders.

Influenced by the masters who preceded him and with a subtly Brueghelian spirit, Vrancx developed his own lyrical yet comical poetry, where warm tones and harmony are the key words. The characters’ over-elaborate clothes gave him his status as a genre painter. Both varied and brightly coloured, these panoramic landscapes are delightful paintings of choice in the work of Sebastian Vrancx.

Provenance :
Probably from the collection of Cardinal Aldobrandini, Rome;
Private collection.

same artist