de jonckheere old masters

Copper: 14 x 18,5 cm


This pleasant gathering of winged creatures featured in this magnificent painting of Birdsong, plunges us into the great tradition of allegories of the elements inherited from the creative wealth of Jan Brueghel the Elder for his loyal Milanese patron, Cardinal Frederick Borromeo. His son, Jan the Younger, refers to his father’s work by portraying this old dead tree whose branches are literally covered with birds that have enchantingly transformed into the singers of a bizarre animal choir.

Inspired by the Allegories of Air by Jan Brueghel the Elder, like the one dated 1611 kept at the Doria Pamphilj Gallery, this painting is teeming with a variety of ornithological species from all known continents, recorded with the concern of a naturalist inventory. This type of almost scientific image flourished in the 17th century; it was highly popular in the cabinets of curiosity that were highly fashionable in Antwerp at the time. Here, the theme of Birdsong follows the Brueghelian typology: winged creatures of every sort, gathered at the foot of a tree or nesting in its branches, punctuate a river landscape. The sparseness of the branches emphasises the rich and sparkling colours of the feathers. The landscape, with its expressive, dense foliage and knotted trunks, echoes the agitation in the foreground where a whole encyclopaedia of winged creatures that were known in the 17th century flutter around. Invented by the son, the choir of birds in the foreground revives the comicalness particular to the Brueghel dynasty. Gathered around a score, the exotic animals, including a superb red macaw, are attentively reading the notes. In fact, this imposing parrot features twice: at the foot of the tree as well as on a branch. Its plumage is thus truly magnified since it stands out against a dull, pastel sky, just like its two yellow and blue fellow creatures posted on the left-hand side.

Completely mastering his subject, Jan Brueghel the Younger breaks with the traditional organisation of successive brown-green-blue planes which, although not totally forgotten here, is very clearly counterbalanced by the lively touches of colour provided by the birds.

To evoke the richness and colourful profusion of their feathers, the artist nuances his palette and uses his extremely precise brushstroke to portray details as minuscule as the smallest leaves and branches. Brueghel’s passion for birds is well known to us through his pages of studies which are filled with careful details and sparkling colours. Similar to the version in the Braunschweig Museum, this attractive copper bears witness to Brueghel’s taste for nature and the astonishing know-how which he demonstrates through its portrayal.

Provenance :
Private collection.

du meme thème