Jan Brueghel il Vecchio, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Jan Bruegel (I), Bruegel dei Velluti, Velvet Brueghel
(Bruxelles, 1568 – Anversa, 12 gennaio 1625)
The Battle of Issus, La Bataille d’Issus, La battaglia di Arbelles o La battaglia di Isso
The painting is mistaken to represent another defeat for Darius, that of Arbelles (331 BC). This painter’s masterpiece: one of his largest and richest paintings. An evocation of battle in the best late Mannerist style in vogue in Europe at the end of the 16th century and extending the German art of the Renaissance (the Donaustil where Altdorfer was illustrated). The date 1602 is hidden by the frame.
A bold victory for Alexander the Great
The painting, formerly called “Battle of Arbelles (331 BC)”, in fact represents another victory of Alexander the Great over the bellicose Darius, king of the Persians, the famous battle of Issus (333 before BC.). The Macedonian chief, by a daring strategy, takes advantage of the passage of the Persian troops in the mountainous defiles of Syria to launch his cavalry to their assault. Thus, thanks to the narrowing of the battlefield, Alexander succeeds in defeating an enemy however numerous.
A powerful epic breath
A powerful epic breath animates this masterpiece of the painter, one of his largest paintings and the richest in figures. The tumult warrior contrasts with the green and bluish fullness of the background landscape. However, the composition links cleverly degraded plans: the pointed shape of the tent canvas is for example a subtle echo of mountain peaks. It is all a thwarted movement, prancing horses and oblique contrasts in this inextricable swarm of combat whose force evokes the very famous Battle of Alexander of the German Albrecht Altdorfer (1529, Munich, Alte Pinacothek). Jan Brueghel the Younger knows how to punctuate this military shock with skilful touches of lighting (otherwise totally fanciful) and with the subtle play of a palette alternating bright colors (red, blue, yellow…) that circulate our look into the battle.
Velvet BrueghelAdeline Collange (my translation)
Jan Brueghel the Elder, the younger brother of Pieter II, is without doubt, after his father Pieter I, the most gifted painter of this great dynasty of artists. He was one of the most appreciated artists of the court of Archduke Albert and Isabelle and collaborated with the great Rubens himself (The Virgin, the Child Jesus and angels in the middle of a garland of flowers from the Louvre museum). He was particularly known for his magnificent floral arrangements and knew how to give this genre its true letters of nobility. The extraordinary virtuosity of his brush and his refined and mellow colors earned him his nickname of Brueghel de Velours. Here, despite the tumultuous violence of the subject, he retains the same colorful preciousness (distant bluish so close to the poetry of landscapes by Paul Bril) and this extraordinary thoroughness that made the success of his paintings of flowers. Thus Brueghel de Velours, at the start of the 17th century, presented himself as a transitional painter, happily mixing this typically Mannerist taste for the accumulation of miniaturist detail while announcing, through his observation so attentive and precise, developments in research on the real.
Dipinto – Painting
Olio su tela – Oil on canvas
H.: 0.80 m. ; L.: 1.36 m.
Fouquet then Le Nôtre collections; bequest from Le Nôtre to Louis XIV, 1693, 1693
Signature: BRUEGHEL 1602
Images from Wikimedia Commons and RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi