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Fantastic landscape

Bril Paul (?)

(Antwerp 1554 - Rome 1626)

Worth noting in this open landscape with highly contrasting foliage is the representation of the marsh vegetation and broken trunks in the foreground. These elements are references to the Flemish painters of the Frankenthal school and the work of Gillis Van Coninxloo, and in particular, Frederik van Valckenborch, to whose work the canvas has been compared.

Object details

ultimo decennio del XVI secolo
oil on canvas
cm 66 x 90

Salvator Rosa


(?) Rome, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, 1607; Inv. 1693, room XI, nos 100, 128; Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, pp. 15, 26; purchased by Italian state, 1902.


The provenance of this work is still unclear. According to Paola Della Pergola (1959, p. 153), it may have formed part of the group of works confiscated by Paul V’s fiscal police from Giuseppe Cesari, called Cavalier d'Arpino. This set of paintings certainly included several landscapes, which it is impossible to identify.

As with the Landscape with a Classical Temple and a Hunter (inv. no. 12) and the Fantastic Landscape (inv. no. 13), this work – together with its pendant (inv. no. 19) – was attributed to Paul Bril in the 1693 inventory. The 1833 Inventario Fidecommissario confirmed the attribution: of the works in the collection believed to be by the Belgian artist, this inventory only cast doubt on the ascription of the Landscape with a Classical Temple and a Hunter (inv. no. 12). In 1893 Venturi (pp. 28, 36) judged this landscape and the three other works to be ‘weak paintings, which should rather be considered the work of a follower’. His verdict was later shared by both Longhi (1928, p. 76) and Della Pergola (1959, p. 154): taking into account the work’s style, the latter critic spoke of Bril’s workshop and therefore ruled out a complete attribution to him.

In 1980, Gerszi asserted that this painting was the work of Frederik van Valckenborch, a Belgian artist who was present in Italy beginning from 1590-92, together with his brother Gillis; Gerszi dated the execution of the work to 1595-96.

Antonio Iommelli

  • S. Francucci, La Galleria dell’Illustrissimo e Reverendissimo Signor Scipione Cardinale Borghese cantata in versi [1613], Arezzo 1647, St. 126-127; 
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, pp. 381-3; 
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, pp. 28, 36; 
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I: La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 176; 
  • L. van Puyvelde, La Peinture Flamande à Rome, Bruxelles 1950, p. 76; 
  • P. Della Pergola, Itinerario della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1951, pp. 13, 17; 
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 153, n. 217;
  • D. Bodart, Les peintres des Pays-Bas méridionaux et de la principauté de Liège à Rome au XVIIème siècle, Bruxelles-Roma 1970, p. 228; 
  • T. Gerszi, Neuere Aspekte der Kunst Frederik van Valckenborchs, “Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen”, 32, 1990, pp. 173-189, p. 182; 
  • L. Pijl, Paintings by Paul Bril in collaboration with Rottenhammer, Elsheimer and Rubens, in "The Burlington Magazine", CXXXX, 1998, pp. 660-667;
  • L. Pijl, Figure nd Landscape: Paul Bril’s collaboration with Hans Rottenhammer and other figure painters, in Fiamminghi a Roma 1508-1608, atti del convegno (Utrecht 1995), a cura di S. Eiche, G.J. Van der Sman, J. van Waadenijen, Firenze 1999, pp. 79-91;
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 144; 
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Caravaggio e la quadreria del Cavalier d’Arpino, in Caravaggio: la luce nella pittura lombarda, catalogo della mostra (Bergamo, Accademia Carrara di Belle Arti, 2000), a cura di C. Strinati e R. Vodret, Milano 2000, p. 69; 
  • F. Cappelletti, Paul Bril e la pittura di paesaggio a Roma (1580-1630), Roma 2005-2006;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Galleria Borghese Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla pinacoteca ai depositi un museo che non ha più segreti, San Giuliano Milanese 2006, p. 11;