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Jacob Grimmer

The Rest during the flight into Egypt

Panel: 68,1 x 110,8 cm
1554
Monogrammed and dated 1554

introduction

An essential link in the body of work by Grimmer on account of its early date, this landscape is also significant because the breadth of its panoramic scope makes it one of the key works for appraising the evolution of the Flemish landscape genre.

In departure from the Weltbild of Patinir or Met de Bles, but also from the plunging approach found in the work of Brueghel or Valckenborgh, Grimmer creates in this painting one of the first panoramic landscapes. It is true that the viewpoint is still fairly high, but it already expresses a vision determined by the viewer’s perspective. This view ranges freely over a veritable panorama, and, while attention is to some degree focussed on the centre of the composition - defined in this case by a triangle of winding trees in which the Holy Family appears - the visual trajectory is not overly determined.

Each element in the composition has a life of its own and is not intended merely to lead the viewer’s eye in one direction or another. This free approach is reinforced by the fact that Grimmer emphasises the contrast between the different levels of depth, both through colour and form. The tonal perspective is essentially muted: the painter uses a single dominant tonality, modulated blue subtle nuances, and further uses nearly abstract colour planes. Abandoning the blues traditionally used in Flemish landscapes to indicate distance, which are at times somewhat overpowering, he often chooses, as in this case, a grey tone which is admirably subtle. In formal terms, there is no place in Grimmer’s work for highly structural elements to organise the landscapes hierarchically, whether they be the corridor-like elements used in the foreground by mannerist painters, or the fantastic relief elements which recur in the work of Met de Bles, the planes flow into one another in soft undulations, echoing the natural tendencies of the Flemish countryside.

It is indeed a view of Flanders, dotted with architectural elements, (the village with church at the left, the farm buildings in the centre and the fortified castle surrounded by a moat at the right), and painted in a manner which is at once realistic and picturesque, as is also suggested by the port in the background which looks distinctly Antwerpian. The serene expanse of this bucolic landscape seems particularly suited to the holy scene which underpins the image: the theme of the Rest on the Flight into Egypt has rarely been illustrated so literally in such an appropriate environment: one glance at the languid positions of the Holy Family is sufficient proof.

Provenance :
D.A. Hoogendijk, Amsterdam, 1926;
Baron de Cartier, Belgium;
Private collection.

Littérature :
P. Bautier, in Cahiers de Belgique, 1928, p. 25;
H. Fierens-Gevaert, in International Studium, XXXIII, 1927, p. 29, ill;
E. Greindl, Monographie de Jacob Grimmer, in Die Hals Familie und Ihre Zeit, exhibition catalogue, Friederike Pallamar Gallery, Vienna, 1972, n° 1, as « signed and dated 1553 »;
R. de Bertier de Sauvigny, Jacob et Abel Grimmer, 1991, p. 57, n° II, fig. 1.

Expositions :
Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Paysages flamands, September - November 1926, n° 139 ;
Vienna, Friederike Pallamar Gallery, Die Hals Familie und Ihre Zeit, 15 November - 31 December 1972, ill. n° 1.

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