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Artist NameJan, the younger Brueghel (Antwerp 1601 - 1678 Antwerp)
TitleAllegory of Abundance
Date of Artworkca. 1630
MediumOil on copper
Size29 7/8 x 41 1/4 in. • 75.9 x 104.8 cm
Framed Dimensions38 x 49 in. • 96.5 x 124.5 cm


Private Collection, Uruguay, since the 1930s

Further Information

The eldest son of Jan Breughel the Elder, Jan the Younger trained with his father in Antwerp before setting off for Italy with his childhood friend Anthony van Dyck around 1620. He returned in 1625, becoming a member of the Antwerp painter's guild (he would become Dean in 1630) and taking over his recently deceased father's active and successful studio. While he remained active in his native city throughout his long career, his clients came from across Europe and included the Austrian and French courts. The subject matter of his paintings was varied, although he is best known for his idealized landscapes which might feature villages, as well as his allegories and mythological scenes, often made in collaboration with the specialists in figure painting, such as in the present example. Brueghel's landscape-characterized by a meticulous handling of receding space and populated with beautifully-observed animals, fruits, flowers, and other natural elements-here serves as the setting for a meeting of gods and goddesses accompanied by a satyr, nymphs, and winged putti.

This work is a newly discovered and version of a composition treated on at least two other occasions by Brueghel. The best known is that in National Gallery in Prague with figures by Hendrick van Balen (Fig. 1), while another panel of similar dimensions with figures by Ambrosius Francken the Younger is in a private collection in New York (Fig. 2). Our painting is slightly larger than those two and is distinguished both by its copper support and more expansive treatment of the trees and sky across the top of the painting. As is typical of Jan Brueghel the Younger's collaborative efforts, van Balen was responsible for the principal figures, while Brueghel painted the landscape, still-life elements, and staffage.

The subject of the work has been variously titled throughout the scholarly literature. For Gustav Glück it was an Allegory of Autumn; Klaus Ertz termed it an Allegory of Abundance; and Bettina Werche catalogued it as Bacchus, Venus, and Ceres. It may properly be considered all three. The harvest deities of Bacchus and Ceres flank the goddess of love Venus and well-illustrate the motto Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venus ("Without Bacchus and Ceres, Venus grows cold")-a quotation from the Roman dramatist Terence, suggesting that love disappears without the stimulus of wine and food. As Bacchus, the wine god, and Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, are associated with the bounty of the autumn harvest, their presence-in the context of the richness of the vegetation, produce, fruits, and flowers depicted-make the painting both an allegory of the season, and, more broadly, one of Abundance.

Brueghel was a master of creating a microcosm of the world-here encompassing both the earthly and the godly-in the limited space of a cabinet picture. The composition is created from two divergent diagonals that begin in the center foreground and receipt to the outer edges of the painting, pointing towards two distant landscape views punctuated by a pink and blue tinged sky. The mass of dense trees executed in earthy brown and green hues in the center of the middle-ground serves as a backdrop to the figures in the foregrounds and offsets the rich colors of their garments. These sophisticated compositional devises serve to create an attractive image that presents engaging passages of visual interest throughout.

Dr. Klaus Ertz has confirmed Jan Brueghel the Younger authorship of the painting, with figures by Hendrick van Balen, upon firsthand inspection (certificate of 7 April 2022). Ertz dates the work ca. 1630, shortly after Breughel's return from Italy in 1625.