Bruegel Family

“Today the interpretation of “what Bruegel really meant” has become a fascinating game, relatively free from risk of anything more serious than disagreement from the specialists. It is a passtime combining scholarship, detective work, keen eyesight, and sheer conjecture. It is a game that many can play and have played. They have not all, by any means, reached identical conclusions. A consensus is difficult to formulate.”
Arthur H. Klein,
“Graphic world of Peter Bruegel the elder”
Publisher: Dover Publications;1963

Pieter Bruegel the Elder
(c. 1525 – 9 September 1569)
Pieter Bruegel, usually known as Pieter Bruegel the Elder to distinguish him from his elder son, was the first in a family of Flemish painters. He spelled his name Brueghel until 1559, and his sons retained the “h” in the spelling of their names.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, generally considered the greatest Flemish painter of the 16th century, is by far the most important member of the family. He was probably born in Breda in the Duchy of Brabant, now in The Netherlands. Accepted as a master in the Antwerp painters’ guild in 1551, he was apprenticed to Coecke van Aelst, a leading Antwerp artist, sculptor, architect, and designer of tapestry and stained glass. Bruegel traveled to Italy in 1551 or 1552, completing a number of paintings, mostly landscapes, there. Returning home in 1553, he settled in Antwerp but ten years later moved permanently to Brussels. He married van Aelst’s daughter, Mayken, in 1563. His association with the van Aelst family drew Bruegel to the artistic traditions of the Mechelen (now Malines) region in which allegorical and peasant themes run strongly.


The Tower of Babel
Oil on oak panel
114 x 155 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Vienna

Pieter Coecke van Aelst
(b: Aelst, now Aalst, 14 Aug 1502; d: Brussels, 6 Dec 1550),
son of the Deputy Mayor of the village of Aelst, was a leading Antwerp artist, sculptor, architect, and designer of tapestry and stained glass. He entered the Antwerp Guild in 1527. He was married twice, first to Anna van Dornicke (d 1529), the daughter of the Antwerp painter Jan Mertens, who may have been his teacher; they had two children, Michel van Coecke and Pieter van Coecke II (before 1527- 59), the latter of whom became a painter. He later married Mayken Verhulst, herself a painter and the mother of three children, Pauwel, Katelijne and Maria (Mayken). Pieter Bruegel the Elder, generally considered the greatest Flemish painter of the 16th century, was said one of his apprentices, but there is no trace of Coecke’s influence in his work. Bruegel married van Aelst’s daughter Mayken in 1563. Her mother, Mayken Verhulst (daughter of a little-known painter in Mechelen) is credited with having taught the technique of painting “in tempera” on cloth to her son-in-law. Mayken Verhulst is best known for miniatures, she was described by Lodovico Guicciardini in 1567 as one of the five principal female painters in the Netherlands.


Pieter Coecke van Aelst
Oil on panel, 105 x 68 cm (central), 105 x 28 cm (each wing)
Private collection

“Van Mander’s biography states that Pieter Bruegel apprenticed with the Antwerp artist Pieter Coecke van Aelst, but several scholars, including Grossmann and Stechow, have pointed to a lack of documentary and stylistic evidence. Van Mander may have based his assumption on the fact that Bruegel married Coecke’s daughter Mayken in 1563. Although we know that Bruegel was in contact with Hieronymus Cock by about 1555 and it is natural to assume that he would have known the art of Hieronymus’ brother Matthys, Bruegel’s activities in the 1540s, when Matthys was alive, are unknown to us. The idea that Matthys might have been the teacher of Pieter Bruegel the Elder has grown out of conversations with Timothy Riggs and Konrad Oberhuber. Since then Oberhuber has published this suggestion in “Des dessins de Pierre Bruegel I’Ancien,” Bruegel. Une dynastie de peintres [, Palais des Beaux-Arts] (Brussels, 1980), 60-61.”

“Early Netherlandish Painting”
National Gallery of Art, Washington.
John Oliver Hand, Martha Wolff

Hieronymus Cock
(c. 1510—1570)

was a Flemish painter and etcher of the Northern Renaissance, but was perhaps most significant as a publisher and distributor of prints. He was born to a family of painters; his father was Jan Wellens de Cock, his brother Matthys Cock (1505-1548).Cock issued his first prints in Antwerp in 1548. At his death in 1570 he left behind him the most prominent print publishing establishment in Europe north of the Alps [See:Timothy A. Riggs, Hieronymus Cock. Printmaker and Publisher, PhD, Yale University 1971, published in the series 'Outstanding Dissertations in the Fine Arts', Garland Publishers, New York / London, 1977] . Cock’s enterprise played an important role in the spread of the Italian High Renaissance troughout northern Europe as Cock published prints by prominent engravers as Giorgio Ghisi and Cornelis Cort after leading Italian painters as amongst others Raphael, Primaticcio and Andrea del Sarto. Cock also favoured the inventions of his Flemish and Dutch contemporaries such as Frans Floris, Pieter Bruegel and Maarten van Heemskerck. His widow Volcxken Diercx continued the publishing house under the name “Aux quatre vents” (In the [sign] of the four winds) until her death in 1601.
He was admitted to the painters’ guild of Saint Luke in Antwerp in 1545.
From 1546 to 1548, he worked at Rome. When he returned to Antwerp in 1548, he founded his own publishing house, “Aux quatre vents” (the “House of the Four Winds”). Giorgio Ghisi and Dirck Volckertsz Coornhert worked with him there, and Cornelis Cort was a student. He made engravings based on the works of Pieter Brueghel the Elder and Hieronymus Bosch. With the Spanish cartographer Diego Gutiérrez, he collaborated on a 1562 “Map of America”. []
From 1557, Philippe Galle worked at his printing house and later succeeded him there.
Vincenzo Scamozzi copied many of the engravings made by Cock for his own volume on Rome.


Portrait of Hieronymus Cock [detail].
Johan Wierix
(c. 1549, Antwerp – c. 1620, Antwerp)
Engraving. 156 × 121 mm.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Prentenkabinet
( BdH 24454).

“Hieronymus Cock was the first major print publisher of Northern Europe. Working in Antwerp between 1550 and his death in 1570, he issued almost a thousand prints after the leading Dutch, Flemish, and Italian artists of the day, and close to a tenth of his total production was landscapes, many published in series of four, eight, and ten sheets, and even more.”

“Pleasant places: the rustic landscape from Bruegel to Ruisdael”
Walter S. Gibson
University of California Press;
1 edition (March 23, 2000)


Hieronymus Cock
“Sea Arches”
From “Landscapes and Fantastic Monsters”
The print is 8 1/8“ wide x 6“ high.

Matthys Cock
(c. 1509—1548)

Matthys Cock was born around 1509, the son of the Antwerp painter Jan de Cock and the elder brother of the artist, printer, and publisher Hieronymus Cock. Matthys presented a pupil to the guild in Antwerp in 1540 and died before 1548. Van Mander praises him as a landscape painter, and it has been suggested, without definite proof, that he journeyed to Italy. Although no paintings can be given to Matthys Cock with certainty, there is a greater consensus of opinion in attributing drawings to him, and several drawings are dated.


Antwerp 16th Century (Possibly Matthys Cock)
The Martyrdom of Saint Catherine, c. 1540
Samuel H. Kress Collection

“Matthys Cock. . . was an excellent painter of landscape. He was also the first who began to make landscapes in a better style, with more variations, in the manner of the modern Italians and the ancients, and was remarkably decorative …”

Six centuries of master prints: Treasures from the Herbert Greer French collection
by Kristin L. (ed.) Spangenberg
Cincinnati Art Museum · 1993

Mayken Verhulst
was a sixteenth-century miniature, tempera and watercolor painter, identified by Lodovico Guicciardini in 1567 as one of the most important female artists in the Low Countries.
Mayken Verhulst was born in Mechelen in 1518. She was the second wife of Pieter Coecke van Aelst, mother-in-law of Pieter Brueghel the Elder and, according to Karel van Mander, the first teacher of her grandsons Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder. No works survive that can be securely attributed to her, although she is frequently identified as the person behind several works assigned to the Master of the Brunswick Monogram.[1] She might also have been the author of a painting in the Kunsthaus Zürich with a self portrait with her husband (panel, 50.5 x 59 cm). Following Pieter Coecke’s death in 1550, she likely oversaw the publication of a large woodcut series Ces Moeurs et Fachons de Faire des Turcz (Manners and Customs of the Turks) (1553). Verhulst died in Mechelen in 1599.


(active 1525-1550 in Antwerp)
Abraham Leading his Son Isaac to the Sacrifice
c. 1535
Wood, 40 x 32 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

This painting is attributed to a Flemish master
who was active in Antwerp and is named
Brunswick Monogrammist after the Feeding
of the Poor (Brunswick, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum),
which is signed with a monogram found only
on this panel and apparently composed
of the interlocked letters J, v, A, M, S
and L. The identity of this master
has been greatly disputed.

“Marie Bessemers (c.1520 – c. 1600) was a miniaturist, and, according to Guicciardini, one of the five best known Netherlandish women painters of her time. She married Pieter Coeck van Aelst, the painter, designer, sculptor, engraver, writer and publisher, and is more usually known as Mayken Verhulst. No work can be attributed to her with certainty, although Simone Bergmans tries hard to build a case for her identification with the Monogrammatist of Brunswick. On of her daughters, Marie, married Pieter Breughel the Elder, and brought her two boys to live with their grandmother when her husband died in 1569. Jan, better known as Velvet, Breughel was only one year old, and his grandmother is usually credited with being his first teacher.
She married her other daughter, Katharine, to her husband’s successor as doyen of art publishing in Brussels, Hubert Goltzious. Her great – grandson, Jan Breughel II, married Anna (fl. 1645-68), the daughter of his fellow flower – painter, Abraham Jnssens. Another Anna, Mayken Verhulst’s great-granddaughter, married David Teniers the Younger. Two other greatgranddaughters married painters, Hieronymus van Kessel and Jan Baptist Borrekens.[1]”

[1] Jean Baptiste Borrekens
Born in Antwerp, Flanders, 17 May 1611
Died Flanders: Unknown, 14 February 1665

Germaine Greer
“The obstacle Race. The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work”
Published in 2001 by Tauris Parke Paperbacks.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger
(1564 or 1565[1] – October 10, 1636)

Pieter Brueghel the Younger was the oldest son of the painter Pieter Brueghel the Elder and Mayken Coecke van Aelst. His father died in 1569, when Pieter the younger was only five years old. Then, following the death of his mother in 1578, Pieter, along with his brother Jan Brueghel the Elder and sister Marie, went to live with their grandmother Mayken Verhulst (widow of Pieter Coecke van Aelst). She was an artist in her own right, and according to Carel van Mander, possibly the first teacher of the two sons. The family moved to Antwerp sometime after 1578 and Pieter possibly entered the studio of the landscape painter Gillis van Coninxloo (1544-1607). In the 1584/1585 registers of Guild of Saint Luke, “Peeter Brugel” is listed as an independent master. On November 5, 1588 he married Elisabeth Goddelet, and the couple had seven children.
He painted landscapes, religious subjects and fantasy paintings. For this last category he often made use of fire and grotesque figures, leading to his nickname “Hell Brueghel”.
Apart from these paintings of his own invention, Pieter Brueghel the Younger also copied the works his father had created by using a technique called pouncing. His genre paintings of peasants lack Pieter the Elder’s subtlety and humanism, and emphasize the picturesque.[2]
1. Although his precise date of birth is unknown, he was 36 years old on May 22, 1601 and died on October 10, 1636 at the age of 72. Therefore, he was born in late 1564 or early 1565.
2. Gibson, Michael. “A Dynasty of Painters: Belgium Celebrates the Bruegels”. ARTnews (January 1981): 130.


Adoration of the Magi
Oil on canvas, 36×56 cm
Second half of the 16th century
The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

“…He married Elisabeth Goddelet on 5 November 1588, and the couple had seven children, including Pieter III, their eldest child who in turn became a master painter in 1608. Few facts are known about Pieter II’s life, but he never owned a house and in 1597 was behind on his rent. In 1612 he and his sister and brother Jan shared in an inheriatnce from Pieter Coecke. He enjoyed a long and productive career that lasted more than half a century and exported his art widely through the firm of Forchoudt; however, his paintings were often valued only modestly in inventories of the period…”

“Dutch & Flemish paintings: the collection of Willem Baron van Dedem”
Peter C. Sutton,
Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Jan Brueghel the Elder
(1568 – January 13, 1625)
He was the second son of Pieter Brueghel The Elder (1525-1569). Jan had been given several nicknames, called “Velvet”, “Flower” and “Paradise” Brueghel – the nicknames were to some extent an effort to distinguish between members of the same family. Brueghel attended school in Antwerp where he was a pupil of Pieter Goctkind and probably also of Gillis van Coninxloo during the years of 1578-1584. He also studied watercolour painting with his grandmother, Mayken Verhulst, in Italy in 1589. There he entered the service of Cardinal Borromeo in Rome and Milan in 1595 and 1596. He returned to Antwerp in 1598 and settled and became a member of a painters’ guild. He married Isabella de Jode in 1599. They had one daughter and a son, Jan II (1601-1678) who also became a painter. After Isabella died in 1603, he married Catharine van Marienberghe in 1605. With her they had eight children, including the painter Ambrosius (1617-1675). Jan Brueghel ’s position in society and among his fellow artists was assured during his lifetime: he solidified the family reputation established by his famous father, and his works were very influential. His flower paintings are perhaps his most well known, though he began painting flowers only toward the end of his career. By the time Brueghel began painting, “Turkish” flowers such as tulips and hyacinths had appeared in Europe, as well as American plants such as marigolds, nasturtiums, and sunflowers. Brueghel’s reputation as a master at painting flowers is notable because of the newness of the genre, and he was proud of his mastery of minute detail. Most of his still lifes date from 1610-21. His bouquets all have a sure touch in terms of composition. His juxtaposition of flowers of all seasons in the same picture is less a botanical curiosity than a suggestion of the “Paradise” or “Eden” quality added to the very idea of such beauty and fullness of nature. His landscapes, which he painted all his life, and which show the influences he encountered on his trip to Italy, also take on certain characteristics of his father’s work, which he obviously studied. He collaborated with many of his contemporaries – most famously with Rubens, who wrote his epitaph. Two of his most famous works, collaborated with Rubens, are “Madonna in a Wreath of Flowers” (Brueghel painted the wreath), and “Paradise”, also called “Adam and Eve in the Garden”. His style was perpetuated by his sons Jan Brueghel II (1601-78) and Ambrosius Brueghel (1617-75), whose sons then carried on the tradition into the 18th century. Jan Brueghel died in Antwerp of cholera in 1625.


Madonna and Child
Oil on copperplate, 26.5×35.2 cm
Between 1598 and 1600
The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

“Epithets, such as Flower of Paradise Brueghel, came into being as dealers sorted the vast volume of flower pieces and paradise landscapes on the market and felt the need to distinguish the vaious members of the Bruegle-Brueghel dynasty from each other. Labeling Jan Brueghel as the painter of flowers was to distinguish him from his father, Boeren Bruegel (the painter of peasants), or his brother, Pieter Brueghel the Younger (Helsche of Hellish Brueghel) who, mistakenly, was considered the painter of infernal scenes in the manner of Hieronymus Bosch. Less misleading is third epithet, Jan Brueghel as the Velvet Brueghel (Fluwelen Brueghel), which i read as a double tribute.
First, it constitutes praise for a man whose exquisite colors glow like the finest fabrics (such as velvet) on the highly polished surfaces of his copperplates and wooden panels. Second, it coveyed the social status of the merchant-craftsman, whose gentlemanly polish and expensive clothes gained him the confidence of some of the most eminent patrons of his day.”

Landscape and Philosophy in the Art of Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625)
Leopoldine Prosperetti
Publisher: Ashgate (February 12, 2009)

Jan Brueghel the Younger
(September 13, 1601 – September 1, 1678)
was a Flemish Baroque painter, and the son of Jan Brueghel the Elder.
He was trained by his father and spent his career producing works in a similar style. Along with his brother Ambrosius, he produced landscapes, allegorical scenes and other works of meticulous detail. Brueghel also copied works by his father and sold them with his father’s signature. His work is distinguishable from that of his parent by being less well executed and lighter.
Jan the Younger was traveling in Italy when his father died of cholera and swiftly returned to take control of the Antwerp studio. He soon established himself and was made dean of the Guild of Saint Luke in 1630. Jan the Younger’s best works are his extensive landscapes, either under his own name or made for other artists such as Hendrick van Balen as backgrounds.

Holy Family Framed with Flowers
Oil on canvas, 82×70 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Anna Brueghel
(1620? – May 11, 1656)

“Anna Brueghel, daughter of Jan Brueghel the Elder and granddaughter of Pieter Brueghel the Elder was Teniers’ first wife. …
Anna herself must have known David the Younger all her life, as her father collaborated with David Teniers the Elder on occasion.
The couple signed their marriage contract on July 4, 1637, with Rubens as a witness.”

“David Teniers the Younger”
Jane P Davidson; David Teniers
Boulder, Colo. Westview Pr. 1979

“David Teniers the Younger (1610 – 1690) was successful and renowned in his lifetime. He was active in Antwerp, a flourishing artistic center, alongside fellow painters such as Jacob Jordaens, Adrian Brouwer, Peter Paul Rubens, Frans Snyders, and the prolific Brueghel family. Moving away from the biblical and mythological compositions of his father, Teniers developed a passion for scenes of everyday life, including peasant, kermis, and interior genre scenes. …As Margret Klinge states in her catalogue of his work, his marriage to Anna marked a change in his style, especially as Teniers came to own many works by the elder Brueghel.”

“David Teniers the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Younger: Partnership of Pastiche?”
Noelle Ocon.
from “Knights in shining armor: myth and reality 1450-1650″
Ida Sinkević,
in association with Allentown Art Museum.
First published in 2006 by Bunker Hill Publishing Inc.

“On July 22, 1637, he wed Anna Brueghel, the seventeen-year-old daughter of the Antwerp painter Jan Brueghel the Elder; their marriage contract was witnessed by her guardian, Peter Paul Rubens. Between 1638 and 1655 the couple baptized seven children, five in Antwerp and two in Brussels. Anna died on May 11, 1656, along with an infant daughter. On October, 21 1656, the artist took as a second wife the highborn Isabella de Fren, daughter of a secretary to the Council of Brabant.”
“16th- and 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings in the Springfield Museum”
Museum of Fine Arts (Springfield, Mass.),Alice I. Davies

Ambrose Brueghel
(b Antwerp, bapt 10 Aug 1617; d Antwerp, 9 Feb 1675).
Painter, son of (3) Jan Breughel I. After the death of his father, Ambrosius was placed under the guardianship of Rubens, Hendrick van Balen, Cornelis Schut and Pieter de Jode (i). It is possible that Ambrosius studied under his half-brother Jan the younger. On 10 September 1639 Ambrosius drew up his will in the presence of a witness, the still-life painter Jacob van Hulsdonck (1582-1647), which has been interpreted as proof that he travelled south. At this occasion, he bequeathed a Crucifixion by his father and a case of drawings to his brother-in-law David Teniers (ii), who was married to his sister Anna, and Rubens’s Portrait of his Parents to Jan-Baptist Borrekens (d 1668), a painter and art dealer, who was married to his other sister Catherina. In 1645 Ambrosius became a master together with his nephew Jan Pieter Breughel. Ambrosius married Anna-Clara van Triest (d Antwerp, 28 Aug 1682) on 20 February 1649. The couple and their four children lived in a house called ‘De Fontein’ (The Fountain) in the Antwerp Hoogstraat, given as dowry by Michiel van Triest. Ambrosius became dean of the painters’ guild in 1653 and 1671 and was also a town official.


Holy Virgin and Child
Sint-Jacobskerk, Antwerp

David Teniers the Younger
(December 15, 1610 – April 25, 1690),
a Flemish artist born in Antwerp, was the more celebrated son of David Teniers the Elder, almost ranking in celebrity with Rubens and Van Dyck. His son David Teniers III and his grandson David Teniers IV were also painters. His wife Anna née, Anna Breughel was the daughter of Jan Brueghel the Elder and the granddaughter of Pieter Bruegel the Elder.


The Art Collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in Brussels
Oil Painting on Canvas
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Abraham Brueghel
He was the son of Jan Brueghel the Younger, the grandson of Jan Brueghel the Elder and the great-grandson of Pieter Brueghel the Elder.
Abraham was born in Antwerp, Belgium, where he spent most of his youth at. Much of his artistic training came from the hands of his father, Jan Brueghel the Younger. Abraham also drew artistic influence for Abraham showed great promise as an artist from an early age, and even starting to make a name for himself in his teenage years.
In 1649, at the age of 18, Abraham went to Italy to serve under commision for Prince Antonio Ruffio of Sicily. It was the first of many commissions in which Abraham demonstrated his artistic abilities in drawing still lifes, usually flowers.
Ten years later, in 1659, Brueghel moved to Rome, Italy and got married to an Italian woman less than a year later. He continued painting portraits of objects in nature, and for his artistic abilities, in 1670 he was invited into the Accademia di San Luca, a Roman academy designated for giving a higher level of education for artists.

A year later, Abraham moved to Naples, Italy, where he remained until his death there in 1690.
Oil on canvas, 59.5×73 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

“The works of Abraham Brueghel were more substantially painted, and are better preserved. This artist of a floral family, emigrated from Antwerp to Naples, where he prosecuted his art with unexampled fertility, and a kind of scenic effect, but not with the fidelity characteristic of his native school. Inferior to the Neapolitans in the study of nature, he surpassed them in the grandeur, variety, and elegance of his combinations, and his colours have still the freshness of a recent execution. He confined himself, as far as the author is aware, to compositions of fruits and flowers with vases, statuary, birds, and garden scenes ; avoiding the curious degradation of copper pans and cabbages, funguses and zoophytes, on which Recco and his disciples bestowed an ignoble elaboration.”
pp. 128-129,
Francis Napier (10th baron.)
“Notes on modern painting at Naples”
1855, London

Jan van Kessel
(Antwerp, 1626-idem, 1679)

was a Flemish painter of still lifes, who was the father of another painter with the same name Jan van Kessel, and Jan Brueghel the Elder’s grandson.
He became a member of the Antwerp painters’ guild and was influenced by Daniel Seghers (1590-1661). According to Houbraken, he was famous in his lifetime for the neatness of his flower paintings and Cornelis de Bie wrote a poem about him.
Oil on copper

Hubertus Goltzius
(b Venlo, 30 Oct 1526; d Bruges, 2 March 1583)
Flemish humanist, printmaker, publisher, painter and numismatist. He was the son of Rutger den Meeler (Rutger van Weertsburg) and Catherina Goltzius, whose family name was taken by her husband. After studying in Venlo, Hubertus was sent to Luik (Li?ge) to the academy of Lambert Lombard, to whom he was apprenticed until 1546. He then moved to Antwerp, where he became a member of the Guild of St Luke and took on Willem Smout as his pupil. Before 1550 Goltzius married Elisabeth Verhulst Bessemers, a painter from Mechelen, with whom he had four sons and three daughters. Her sister Mayken Verhulst was the second wife of Pieter Coecke van Aelst, which brought Goltzius into artistic circles. Goltzius was active in Antwerp as a painter and antiques dealer, but the only painting that can be attributed to him with certainty is the Last Judgement (1557) for the town hall at Venlo. In Antwerp he was introduced by his friends to prominent numismatists, for whom he made drawings of coins and began a system of their classification. For the same purpose Goltzius undertook a study trip in 1556 through the Netherlands and the Rhine Valley. The results of his investigations appeared in Vivae omnium fere imperatorum imagines (Antwerp, 1557), published by Gillis Coppens van Diest ( fl 1543-73). The work was subsequently published in four other languages, the frontispiece in each edition, including the original, being printed in four different stages: one for the engraved text, two woodcut tone-blocks, and one woodcut key-block for the finer lines. Goltzius was apparently one of the first printers to combine woodcut and engraving in a single frontispiece.


(b. 1516/19, Utrecht, d. 1576/77, Antwerpen)
Portrait of Hubert Goltzius
Oil on wood, 66 x 50 cm
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

Abraham Ortelius
(April 2, 1527 – June 28, 1598)
was a Flemish cartographer and geographer, generally recognised as the creator of the first modern atlas.
He was born in the city of Antwerp; which was then in the Habsburg ruled Seventeen Provinces and is now in Belgium. A member of the influential Ortelius family of Augsburg, he traveled extensively in Europe. He is specifically known to have traveled throughout the Seventeen Provinces; south and west and north and east Germany (e.g., 1560, 1575–1576); France (1559–1560); England and Ireland (1576), and Italy (1578, and perhaps twice or thrice between 1550 and 1558).
Beginning as a map-engraver, in 1547 he entered the Antwerp guild of St Luke as afsetter van Karten. His early career is that of a businessman, and most of his journeys before 1560 are for commercial purposes (such as his yearly visits to the Frankfurt book and print fair). In 1560, however, when travelling with Mercator to Trier, Lorraine and Poitiers, he seems to have been attracted, largely by Mercator’s influence, towards the career of a scientific geographer; in particular he now devoted himself, at his friend’s suggestion, to the compilation of that atlas, or Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Theatre of the World), by which he became famous.
In 1575 he was appointed geographer to the king of Spain, Philip II, on the recommendation of Arias Montanus, who vouched for his orthodoxy (his family, as early as 1535, had fallen under suspicion of Protestantism). In 1578 he laid the basis of a critical treatment of ancient geography by his Synonymia geographica (issued by the Plantin press at Antwerp and republished in expanded form as Thesaurus geographicus in 1587 and again expanded in 1596 In this last edition, Ortelius considers the possibility of continental drift, a hypothesis proved correct only centuries later).
In 1596 he received a presentation from Antwerp city, similar to that afterwards bestowed on Rubens. His death, on July 4, 1598, and burial, in St Michael’s Præmonstratensian Abbey church in Antwerp, were marked by public mourning. Quietis cultor sine lite, uxore, prole, reads the inscription on his tombstone.


A.Ortelius P.Galle J.B.Vrients
Antwerp 1579 -1612
copperplate, Coloured
size in cms: 21 x 32

A finely engraved portrait of Ortelius aged about 50, by Philip Galle.
The text below reads: “By looking, Ortelius gave to mortal beings
the world,/ by looking at his face, Galle gave them Ortelius.”
The map appeared in editions of the “Theatrum Orbis Terrarum” from 1579.

“That Pieter Bruegel was the most perfect painter of his age, no one — unless
jealous or envious or ignorant of his art-could ever deny But that he was snatched away
from us in the flower of his age — I cannot say whether I should attribute it to Death, who
thought Bruegel was more advanced in age (sc. than he actually was) when he observed
the distinguished skill of his art, or whether I should attribute it to Nature who feared that
she would be held up in contempt because of his artistic and talented skills at imitation.
A grieving Abraham Ortelius consecrates this to the memory of his friend.
When asked which of his predecessors he followed, the painter Eupompos is
said to have declared that he followed nature herself, not an artist. This agrees with our
Bruegel, whose pictures I would not really call artificiosae, but rather natural. Indeed, I
would not call him the best of painters, but rather the very nature of painters. So I think
that he is worthy of being followed by all.
This Bruegel painted many things which are not able to be painted, as Puny says
of Apelles. In all his works more is always to be understood than he actually painted, as
the same writer says of Timanthes.
As Eunapius says in his commentary on Iamblichus, painters who
paint pretty young people and wish to add some charm and grace
of their own completely destroy the image presented to them, and
stray both from the exemplar set before them and from true form.
From this fault our Bruegel was free.”
“Tribute to Bruegel” by Abraham Ortelius
from Album Amicorum
is reprinted from The Prints of Pieter Bruegel by David
Freedberg. Copyright ©1989 Tokyo Shimbun.

“The album amicorum (book of friends, also German Stammbuch) is a kind of autograph book collected by early modern students or scholars from Germany or the Low Countries, as they moved about from university to university. Most of the books are made of paper, though there are examples on vellum. A typical page will have a tag or set of verses in Latin or Greek (or, sometimes, Hebrew) at the top, and below, a formal greeting in Latin to the owner of the album. Perhaps as part of the greeting there will be a heraldic shield of the signator or a small picture, often emblematic in nature, and these are sometimes coloured. The work is occasionally of very high quality, and suggests the book must have been kept by the signator for a time in order to prepare the work. [...]
There are sporadic examples of albums from all countries in Europe, yet the custom was associated with the German (and Dutch) academic tradition. OED cites the Earl of Chesterfield, 1757, “I do not mean a German album, stuffed with people’s names and Latin sentences” (and Nickson 10-11 cites other unflattering comments). Though albums came out of the male academic tradition, there are also many family books and some albums were kept by women. Many of the albums have been reproduced; one of the best known is the Album amicorum of Abraham Ortelius, the learned cartographer, whose album is in Pembroke College, Cambridge (the facsimile edited by Jean Puraye appeared as part of the journal Die Gulden Passer 45-6 [1967-8]).”

Alciato’s Emblems and the Album Amicorum:
A Brief Note on Examples in London, Moscow, and Oxford
by William Barker
[December 2002]

Maerten de Vos
(b Antwerp, 1532; d Antwerp, 4 Dec. 1603)

Netherlandish painter, active mainly in Antwerp. In about 1552 he went to Italy (perhaps in company with Bruegel) and worked in Tintoretto’s studio in Venice; he also visited Rome and probably Florence. By 1558 he was back in Antwerp, and after the death of Frans Floris in 1570 he became one of the leading artists in the city. The altarpieces that make up the bulk of his output show the influence of Italian Mannerism in their slender elegance, but his warmth of colour looks forward to Rubens and the Flemish Baroque. His rare portraits are notably direct and in the Netherlandish rather than the Italian tradition (Antoine Anselme and his Family, 1577, Mus. Royaux, Brussels). He was a prolific draughtsman and many prints were made of his compositions.

Portrait of Antonius Anselmus, His Wife and Their Children
Marten de Vos
Oil on oak, 103 x 166 cm
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

“His [Bruegel] “View of the Bay of Naples” (Rome, Palazzo Doria) has been cited as evidence of a visit to that city. He also seems to have visited the Bolognese geographer Scipio Fabius, who in letters of 1561 and 1565 to Ortelius conveyed his greetings to Bruegel and Maerten de Vos.”

Walter S. Gibson

Dirck Volckertszoon Coornhert
(Amsterdam, 1522 – Gouda, 29 October 1590)

was a Dutch writer, philosopher, translator, politician and theologian, the youngest son of Volckert Coornhert, cloth merchant. As a child he spent some years in Spain and Portugal. Returning home, he was disinherited by his father’s will, for his marriage with Cornelia (Neeltje) Simons, a portionless gentlewoman. He took for a time the post of major-domo to Reginald (Reinoud), count of Brederode. Soon he settled in Haarlem, as engraver on copper, and produced works which retain high values. Learning Latin, he published Dutch translations from Cicero, Seneca and Boethius. Coornhert is often considered the Father of Dutch Renaissance scholarship. His 1562 translation of the first twelve books of Homer’s Odyssey is one of the first great works of Dutch Renaissance poetry. He was appointed secretary to the city (1562) and secretary to the burgomasters (1564). Throwing himself into the struggle with Spanish rule, he drew up the manifesto of William the Silent, Prince of Orange (1566). Imprisoned at the Hague in 1568, he escaped to Cleves, where he maintained himself by his art. Recalled in 1572, he was secretary of state for a short time; his aversion to military violence led him to return to Cleves, where William continued to employ his services and his pen. As a religious man, he wrote and strove in favor of tolerance, being decidedly against capital punishment for heretics. He had no party views; he criticized the Heidelberg Catechism, which was authoritative in Holland. The great Jacobus Arminius, employed to refute him, was won over by his arguments.

Upon his death in 1590, his Dutch version of the New Testament, following the Latin of Erasmus, was never completed. His works, in prose and verse, were published in 1630 in 3 volumes.


Portret van Dirck Volckertsz. Coornhert [detail].
Gravure. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
(Inventarisnummer RP-P-1944-3051).
Author: Hendrick Goltzius
(Bracht (Duitsland), 1558 – Haarlem, 1617)

“If Bruegel’s religious convictions were in fact unorthodox, it is more likely that he shared the views of Dirck Coornhert, a friend of Ortelius and one of the engravers working for Cock.”
The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volumes 1-30
edited by Robert MacHenry, Philip W. Goetz
p. 341

Hans Franckert
Merchant, art-dealer from Nuremberg

“…He did a great amount of work for a merchant by the name of Hans Franckert, a noble
and worthy man who liked to chat with Breughel. He was with him every day. With this Franckert,
Breughel often went on trips among the peasants, to their weddings and fairs. The two dressed like
peasants, brought presents like the other guests, and acted as if they belonged to the families or
acquaintances of the bride or of the groom. Here Breughel delighted in observing the manners of the
peasants in eating, drinking, dancing, jumping, making love, and engaging in various drolleries, all of
which he knew how to copy in color very comically and skillfully, and equally well with water-color and
oils; for he was exceptionally skilled in both processes. He knew well the characteristics of the peasant
men and women of the Kampine and elsewhere. He knew how to dress them naturally and how to portray
their rural, uncouth bearing while dancing, walking, standing, or moving in different ways. He was
astonishingly sure of his composition and drew most ably and beautifully with the pen. He made many
little sketches from nature…”

Karel van Mander

Karel Van Mander,
“Pieter Bruegel of Bruegel”

Karel van Mander (1548-1606) accomplished for Netherlandish painters of the
15th and 16th centuries what Vasari had done for Italian artists when he published the
Schilder-boeck, or Book of Painters in 1604. The text consists of six sections that reflect
both van Mander’s background as a painter and draughtsman and his understanding of
the nature and purpose of Vasari’s Lives of the Artists. He includes accounts of the lives
of ancient Greek painters, painters of the Italian Renaissance (which he translated and
adapted directly from Vasari’s Lives of the Artists), and most importantly, of Northern
European painters, as well as tracts on the theory of painting and an interpretation of
the symbolism in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The selection below from the biography of
Bruegel is drawn from van Mander’s treatment of Netherlandish artists which discussed
the careers of nearly 200 individuals, thereby setting important groundwork for the
history of Dutch and German painting. In this passage, the author adopts Vasari’s
manner of prose, glorifying the artist’s talents and evaluating the technical merits of his
work. He also refers particularly to Bruegel’s interest in peasant life, reflected in such
works as The Peasant Wedding, and his travels across the Alps, which influenced the
character of the landscapes he often included in his compositions, as in Christ Carrying
the Cross. (Introduction by Christine Sciacca)

Excerpt from Dutch and Flemish Painting, 1604


Nature was wonderfully felicitous in her choice when, in an obscure village in Brabant, she selected the gifted and witty Pieter Breughel to paint her and her peasants, and to contribute to the everlasting fame of painting in the Netherlands. Pieter was born not far from Breda, in a village called Breughel, a name he took for himself and his descendants. He learned his craft from Pieter Koeck van Aelst, whose daughter he later married. He often carried her in his arms when she was little, and when he lived with Aelst. From Aelst he went to work with Jeroon Kock, and then he went to France and to Italy. He practiced a good deal in the manner of Jeroon van den Bosch, and made many similar, weird scenes and drolleries. For this reason, he was often called Pier den Droll. Indeed, there are very few works from his hand that the beholder can look at seriously, without laughing. However stiff, serious, and morose, one may be, one cannot help laughing, or smiling. Pieter painted many pictures from life on his journey, so that it was said of him, that while he visited the Alps, he had swallowed all the mountains and cliffs, and, upon coming home, he had spit them forth upon his canvas and panels; so remarkably was he able to follow these and other works of nature. He settled down, selecting Antwerp as his residence, and there he entered the guild of the painters in 1551 . He did a great amount of work for a merchant by the name of Hans Franckert, a noble and worthy man who liked to chat with Breughel. He was with him every day. With this Franckert, Breughel often went on trips among the peasants, to their weddings and fairs. The two dressed like peasants, brought presents like the other guests, and acted as if they belonged to the families or acquaintances of the bride or of the groom. Here Breughel delighted in observing the manners of the peasants in eating, drinking, dancing, jumping, making love, and engaging in various drolleries, all of which he knew how to copy in color very comically and skillfully, and equally well with water-color and oils; for he was exceptionally skilled in both processes. He knew well the characteristics of the peasant men and women of the Kampine and elsewhere. He knew how to dress them naturally and how to portray their rural, uncouth bearing while dancing, walking, standing, or moving in different ways. He was astonishingly sure of his composition and drew most ably and beautifully with the pen. He made many little sketches from nature. As long as he remained in Antwerp, he lived with a servant girl whom indeed he would have married, had it not been for the unfortunate fact that she used to lie all the time, which was repugnant to his love of truth. He made a contract or agreement with her that he would check off all her lies upon a stick. For this purpose he took a fairly long one, and he said that if the stick became full of notches in the course of time it would prevent the wedding. This happened before much time had elapsed. At last, since Pieter Koeck’s widow had finally settled in Brussels, he fell in love with her daughter, whom, as we have said, he had often carried in his arms, and he married her; but her mother requested that Breughel leave Antwerp, and make his residence in Brussels, in order that he might get his former girl out of sight and out of mind. This also happened. Breughel was a quiet and able man who did not talk much, but was jovial in company, and he loved to frighten people, often his own pupils, with all kinds of ghostly sounds and pranks that he played. Some of Breughel’s most significant works are at present in the possession of the Emperor; for example, a great Tower of Babel with many beautiful details. One can look into it from above. Furthermore, there is a smaller representation of the same subject. There are, besides, two Carrying o f the Cross paintings, very natural-looking, always with a few drolleries in them somewhere. Again, there is a Massacre o f the Innocents, in which there is much to see that is done true to life, of which I have spoken elsewhere–a whole family, for instance, begging for the life of a peasant child whom a murderous soldier has seized in order to kill it; the grief and the swooning of the mother and other events appear realistic. Finally, there is a Conversion of St Paul, also representing some very beautiful cliffs. It would be very hard to enumerate every thing Breughel did–fantasies, representations of hell, peasant scenes, and many other things.


He painted a Temptation of Christ, in which one looks down from above, as from the Alps, upon cities and country borne up by clouds, through the rents in which one looks out. He made a Dulle Griet, who is stealing something to take to Hell, and who wears a vacant stare and is strangely dressed. I believe this and other pictures are also in the possession of the Emperor. Sr Herman Pilgrims, art lover in Amsterdam, has a Peasant Wedding done in oils, which is very beautiful. The faces and bare limbs of the peasants in it are yellow and brown as if they were sunburned, and they show ugly skins, different from those of city dwellers. He painted a picture in which Lent and Carnival are fighting; another, where all kinds of remedies are used against death; and one with all kinds of children at games; and innumerable other little, clever things. Two canvases painted in water-color can be seen in the home of Sr Willem Jacobsz., who lives near the new church in Amsterdam. They represent a Peasant Wedding, where many amusing episodes together with the true character of the peasant may be seen. Among the group giving presents to the bride, is an old peasant who has his little money bag hanging around his neck, and who is busy counting the gold into his hand. These are unusual paintings. Shortly before his death, the townsmen of Brussels commanded Breughel to represent in pictures the digging of the canal from Brussels to Antwerp. These pictures were not completed because of his death. Many of Breughel’s strange compositions and comical subjects one may see in his copper engravings. But he has made many skilful and beautiful drawings; he supplied them with inscriptions which, at the time, were too biting and too sharp, and which he had burned by his wife during his last illness, because of remorse, or fear that most disagreeable consequences might grow out of them. In his will he left his wife a picture of A Magpie on a Gallows. By the magpie, he meant the gossips whom he delivered to the gallows. In addition, he had painted a picture in which Truth triumphs. According to his own statement, this was the best thing painted by him. He left behind him two sons who were able painters. One was called Pieter and studied with Gillis van Conincxloo and painted portraits from life; the other, Jan, learned water-color painting from his grandmother, the mother of Pieter van Aelst. Jan studied the process of oil-painting with a certain Pieter Goe-kindt, who had many beautiful things in his house. He went to Cologne and then to Italy, where he made a great name as a landscape painter; he also made other subjects, very small in size, a type of work in which he excelled. Lampsonius speaks of Pieter Breughel in the following lines, with the question:

Who may be this other Jeroon Bos,
Who came in this world again,
Who pictures to us the fantastic
conceptions of his own master again,
Who is most able with the brush,
Who is even surpassing his master?
Ye, Pieter, ye work in the artistic
style of your old master.
But you rise still higher:
For reason that you select
Pleasant topics to laugh about.
Through these you deserve great merit
And with your master you must
be praised for being a great artist.

“Pieter Bruegel of Bruegel” is reprinted from Dutch and Flemish Painters by Karel Van Mander, Constant van de Wall,
trans. Copyright © 1936 McFarlane.


Comments are closed.