Tuesday, April 12, 2016

17C Flora - Jan Brueghel II, (1601-1678) & Abraham Govaerts (1581-1642)

Jan Brueghel II, (1601-1678) and Abraham Govaerts (1581-1642) Flora Seated in a Wooded Landscape Surrounded by Flowers

Here, Flora, the ancient Italian goddess of flowers, is draped in luxurious cream & scarlet robes & contrasting with the blue landscape behind her. Set in a secluded wooded clearing filled with an astonishing variety of wild flowers, the classical subject matter blends with Flemish realism in the 2 rustic huts depicted on the hill at the right.

Flora is framed by flowers. At her left side, rests a myriad of luscious pink roses, narcissi, buttercups, violas, primroses & poppies; while on her other side, tulips & bluebells mingle together. Nestled in the lush grass next to a wicker basket overflowing with blooms are 2 small rabbits. Throughout the ages the rabbit has been a symbol of fertility & lust. Perhaps these rabbits allude to the licentious nature of Flora’s ancient Roman festival, the Floralia which was held in April & included theatrical entertainment featuring naked women. 

Both Ovid & Lucretius describe the goddess Flora in their works. Lucretius, in his explanation of the origins of nature, De Rerum Natura, describes how Flora followed in the footsteps of Zephyr (the east wind) in the spring time, strewing his way with blossoms.1  Ovid, from whom Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) later drew inspiration for his Primavera (Uffizi Gallery, Florence), tells of Flora fleeing from Zephyr: "When he at length embraced her, flowers spilled from her lips; & she was transformed into Flora."

Abraham Govaerts’ paintings typically incorporate mythological or biblical subjects within a mannerist landscape. Figures, in this case flowers, were often added by other artists.  Brueghel II & Govaerts frequently collaborated on works, particularly those with mythological subject matter. Govaerts arranged the landscape, & Jan Brueghel II painted the flowers. The tradition of lush flower painting was established by Brueghel II’s father, Jan Brueghel I (1568-1625).

¹ Lucretius, De Rerum Natura V.736-739.
² Ovid, Fasti V.193-214. 
See original article plus more information here.

About these confusing Breughels - 

Pieter Bruegel (also Brueghel) 1525-1569 was a Netherlandish Renaissance painter & printmaker known for his landscapes & peasant scenes (later called genre painting). From 1559, he dropped the 'h' from his name & signed his paintings as Bruegel.  

Pieter the Elder had 2 sons: Pieter Brueghel the Younger 1564 -1636 & Jan Brueghel the Elder 1568-1625 (both changed their name to Brueghel). Their grandmother, Mayken Verhulst, trained the sons because "the Elder" died when both were very small children. The older brother, Pieter Brueghel, copied his father's style but without the same great talent. Jan was more successful, as he turned to the Baroque style & collaborated with many fine artists.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger or Pieter Bruegel the Younger (before 1616 he signed his name as 'Brueghel' & after 1616 as 'Breughel') 1564 -1636 was a Flemish painter, known for numerous copies after his father Pieter Bruegel the Elder's work as well as his original compositions. The large output of his studio, which produced for the local & export market, contributed to the international spread of his father's imagery.

Jan Brueghel the Elder 1568-1625 was a Flemish painter, son of Pieter Bruegel the Elder & father of Jan Brueghel the Younger 1601-1678. Many of his paintings are collaborations in which figures by other painters were placed in landscapes painted by Jan Brueghel; in other works, Brueghel painted the figures into another artist's landscape or architectural interior. The most famous of his collaborators was Peter Paul Rubens who collaborated on about 25 paintings.

Jan Brueghel the Younger 1601-1678 was a Flemish Baroque painter. Jan the Younger's best works are his extensive landscapes, either under his own name or made for other artists such as Hendrick van Balen as backgrounds.  He collaborated with a number of prominent artists including Rubens, Hendrick van Balen (1575–1632), Adriaen Stalbemt (1580–1682), Lucas Van Uden (1596–1672), David Teniers the Younger, and his father-in-law Abraham Janssens. His pupils were his older sons Abraham , 1631-1690, Philips, & Jan Peeter 1628-1664, his nephew Jan van Kessel, & his younger brother Ambrosius.