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Landscape with a Landing

Bril Paul

(Antwerp 1554 - Rome 1626)

Paul Bril painted this small oil on copper as the pendant of the Landscape with the Temple of the Sybil (inv. no. 511). Probably purchased by Cardinal Scipione Borghese several years after its execution, the work was first mentioned in connection with the family Collection in the 1693 inventory, appearing again in those of the 18th and 19th centuries. The work dates to 1595, as we know from the inscription with the year and painter’s signature on its pendant.

Object details

oil on copper
cm 11 x 17

late 18th-/early 19th-century frame, part of a polyptych, 14.5 x 109.3 x 2.3 cm


Collection of Scipione Borghese (?), first cited in Inv. 1693, room XI, no. 13; Inv. 1790, room VII, nos 57-58; Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 26, nos 12-13. Purchased by Italian state, 1902.

  • 1995 Bruxelles, Palais des Beaux-Arts; Roma, Palazzo delle Esposizioni
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1952 Augusto Vermehren


The painting presents a marine view with a large body of water in the centre, bordered by a brown-coloured tree on the right and a coastline on the left, which extends indistinctly into the background. The scene is set at night. In the foreground, we see figures standing on the shore and several landed boats, with two men in one of them.

The work bears an inscription in the lower-right hand corner with the name of the artist followed by illegible markings, which do not seem to have been made by Bril. The painter’s name was probably added at a later date merely for purposes of identification and not falsification; perhaps it was added when the work was first catalogued in the Borghese Collection in the 1693 inventory (Della Pergola 1959, p. 149, no. 207). This document provides the first mention of both this work and its pendant Landscape with the Temple of the Sybil (inv. no. 511); the latter bears an inscription with the artist’s signature and the date 1595. The two small paintings have the same dimensions and support material and are stylistically similar, suggesting that once it was clear that the pendant was the work of Bril, someone other than the artist wished to add his name to this work as well. In the 1693 inventory, the work is described as ‘a small painting on copper with a landscape, two-thirds of a span high, by Paul Bril, small black frame, no. 776, though in fact 276’. The number 776 is also provided in the entry for the Landscape with the Temple of the Sybil in the same inventory; it was painted onto the lower portion of both works.

The following inventories – those of 1790 and 1833 – list the pair in the same entry, again with an attribution to Bril.

The date 1595 on the pendant suggests that the marine landscape was executed well before it entered the Borghese Collection, some years before the beginning of Bril’s relationship with Cardinal Scipione. The first documented contacts between the two men date to 1611-12, such that it is likely that the work was purchased in those years or later. It is also possible that Scipione acquired the work only after the artist’s death, when his heirs sold his remaining paintings (Cappelletti 2006, p. 219, no. 19).

In 1995, Luk Pijl (pp. 98-100, nos 27-28) proposed that the pair of works may have been among the paintings confiscated from Cavalier d’Arpino (Giuseppe Cesari) in 1607, the event through which Scipione Borghese came into the possession of Cesari’s collection. Yet to date this hypothesis lacks documentary support.

Several replicas of the work are known, one by Bril himself: held at the Wallraf Richartz Museum in Cologne, this painting, dating to 1596, is the mirror image of the copper in question (Cappelletti 2006, p. 222, no. 22). The Cologne work likewise has a pendant – a replica of the Landscape with the Temple of the Sybil – such the two works constitute a nearly identical reproduction of the Borghese pair. Evidently the coupling of the two compositions, one with a marine view and the other a mountain scene, was greatly appreciated, inducing the painter to reproduce them on several occasions. Another signed work by Bril, the Coastal Landscape with Fisherman in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, shows connections with the Landscape with a Landing, as does another painting with a similar subject held in Detroit, which is probably a product of the artist’s workshop (Cappelletti 2006, p. 219, no. 19).

Pier Ludovico Puddu

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 384;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 220;
  • A. Von Würzbach, Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon, Wien-Leipzig 1906, p. 185;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 224;
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 149, n. 207;
  • G.T. Faggin, Per Paolo Brill, in “Paragone Arte”, CLXXXV, 1965, p. 34;
  • L. Pijl, in Fiamminghi a Roma 1508-1608. Artisti dei Paesi Bassi e del Principato di Liegi a Roma durante il Rinascimento, catalogo della mostra (Bruxelles, Palais des Beaux-Arts; Roma, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 1995), a cura di A.C. De Liedekerke, Milano 1995, p. 98, n. 27;
  • F. Cappelletti, Paul Bril e la pittura di paesaggio a Roma 1580-1630, Roma 2006, p. 219, n. 19;
  • 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.165