Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Paulus Bril’s etching of a landscape in an octagonal frame


Paulus Bril (aka. Paul Brill; Paulus Brill; Paul Brilli; Paulus Brilli; Paul Prüll; Paulus Prüll) (c.1553/4–1626)
“Plate 2”, c.1600, from a series of eight plates showing landscapes in octagons composed in the genre of landscape imagery termed “Weltlandschaft” (World Landscape),
Etching on thick laid paper trimmed with thread margins on the left and right sides and slightly within the platemark at the upper and lower edge. From the collections Naudet (Lugt 1937), and Stefan Lanzinger, Munich (Lugt 2358).
Size: (sheet) 12.6 x 9.4 cm
State i (of ii) before the address of Rossi (Note that the plate number, “II”, has been trimmed from this impression)
Signed in lower centre: "Pa. Bril in."
Hollstein 10.I (F W H Hollstein 1949, “Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts c.1450–1700”, Amsterdam)


Condition: slightly silvery impression, trimmed with thread margins on the sides and within the platemark at the top and bottom. There is a small stain (ink?) at the upper edge and light age toning, otherwise the sheet is in excellent condition for its age. This is an exceptionally rare print. 

This print has been sold


When Bril executed this print a tradition of landscape composition called the “Weltlandschaft” (German for “World Landscape”) was well established. In an earlier post I described the key attributes of this tradition as portraying elevated views “constructed with all that is spectacular in an ideal world: grand mountains, statuesque trees, vast stretches of water and a sprinkling of monumental buildings with folk dressed from an Olympian past engaged in symbolic acts.” (see the post on Adriaen van der Cabel’s etching, “Extensive Landscape with River, Mountains, and Village”, Saturday, 26 November 2016). This genre of landscape celebrated the idea that the world was a divine creation and the imagery portrayed in artworks was intended to crystallise this way of thinking by making the concept a visual reality.

Of course, artists change and Bril’s later works when he came under the influence of Annibale Carracci and Adam Elsheimer reveal a far less grand view of landscape, in the sense that these later works have low viewpoints with bucolic scenes viewed at close range. Interestingly, these later works are the ones that arguably “shaped” the course of art history. What I mean by this is that Bril is often considered to be the artistic link between the landscapes of dramatic contrasts of the Weltlandschaft—evolved from Joachim Patinir—and the classical landscape tradition of Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain.




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