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Paesaggio con Battesimo di Cristo e predica del Battista

Bril Paul

(Antwerp 1554 - Rome 1626)

Documented in the Borghese collection from 1693, the painting was attributed by critics to the catalogue of Paul Bril, painted in the same years as the Martyrdom of Two Dominican Friars (inv. 263), around the last five-year period of the century.

The painting on copper depicts Christ, immersed in the Jordan River, being baptised by John the Baptist. The scene is enhanced by two angels and, in the upper right, a Preaching of John the Baptist.


Object details

Inventory
258
Location
Date
c. 1597
Classification
Period
Medium
oil on copper
Dimensions
45 x 35 cm
Frame

Salvator Rosa, 60.5 x 50 x 5.2 cm

Provenance

Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room XI, no. 19); Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 27; purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903 Luigi Bartolucci (disinfestazione dai tarli)
  • 1996-1997 Carlo Ceccotti (restauro della cornice)

Commentary

This painting can be identified for the first time in the inventory of 1693, where it is listed at the Palazzo di Ripetta and described as ‘a painting measuring about two-and-a-half palms depicting the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan with two angels, marked on the back no. 363, on panel with a gilt frame, by Paolo Brilli’. The attribution to the Flemish painter, repeated in the fideicommissary lists, was accepted by Giovanni Piancastelli (1891) but rejected a few years later by Adolfo Venturi (1893), who associated the painting with Jan ‘Velvet’ Brueghel for the rendering of ‘small birds, flowers and butterflies’, an attribution accepted in 1928 by Roberto Longhi. In 1959, Leo van Puyvelde revived the attribution to Bril, dating the work to his early period, a view shared by Paola della Pergola (1959) as well as Francesca Cappelletti (2006), who published the painting in her monograph on the artist in 2006, dating the work to the last five years of the century. According to the scholar, the way of ‘drawing the leaves of the trees’ and setting the narrative scenes, typical of the painter, confirms the dating of the work to those years, a time when the artist worked in the vertical format, including for his prints.

A work depicting the same subject, marked with the initials PB and attributed to the artist in 1971 (Connaissance des Arts, September 1971, p. 41), was judged by Cappelletti to be of poor quality.

Antonio Iommelli




Bibliography
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 385. 
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 138. 
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 200. 
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 150, n. 209. 
  • L. van Puyvelde, Les primitifs Flamands, Roma 1959, p. 154. 
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 305. 
  • 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. 86. 
  • F. Cappelletti, Paul Bril e la pittura di paesaggio a Roma 1580-1630, Roma 2006, p. 224, n. 26.