View under an archway or inside a vault

cat03breenbBartholomeus BREENBERGH

Deventer 1599/ 1600 – 1657 Amsterdam

View under an archway or inside a vault

Brush in brown ink over traces of black chalk; brown ink framing lines.

261 x 215 mm (10-1/4 x 8-1/2 in).

WATERMARK: none. (R3)
CHAIN LINES: vertical, 30-32 mm.
INSCRIPTIONS: signed and dated Bartholomeäs Breenborch.f/ AO 1657[?] at lower right (pen in brown ink), bottom of date cut off; verso, at lower center Ecole hollandaise, Deventer-/ Bartolomé Breenbergh actif vers.1629-1660 (pencil); at upper right V. 37/ 21651/ 37 (pencil).
PROVENANCE: Unidentified collector’s mark RVZS[?] (verso, gray stamp).

Einar Perman, Stockholm, 1953.

Sale, London, Sotheby’s, 27 June 1974, lot 117.

Richard L. Feigen, New York, 1974.

Richard L. Feigen and Co., New York, 1991.

Acquired 1991.

LITERATURE: Roethlisberger 1998, (illus.).
EXHIBITIONS: Cat. Stockholm 1953. no. 160.

Cat. New York 1991. no. 31 (illus.).

Robinson, Franklin W. and Peck, Sheldon. Fresh Woods and Pastures New: Seventeenth-Century Dutch Landscape Drawings from the Peck Collection. Chapel Hill/ Ithaca/ Worcester. 1999-2001. Published catalogue.


Most of Breenbergh’s many paintings, prints, and drawings of Italian sites were executed after his stay in Rome, when he had settled in Amsterdam.  Often he integrated religious scenes into a Roman setting, for example, putting Christ and the rich youth in front of the Pantheon.

He was particularly fond of views from inside caves and vaults, in the arcades of the Colosseum, the caves or villas in and around Tivoli, or the grotto of Egeria.  There is no precise precedent for the present drawing, topographically or stylistically, and indeed, the image is unusually haunting and powerful, with the intense darkness in the foreground and the full sunlight beyond.

M. Roethlisberger (op. cit.) has suggested a date circa 1627, based on a drawing in Rotterdam dated that year and with almost the same form of the signature (“Breenberch”).  However, because of, as he says, “some exceptions to this rule of thumb,” the clarity of the artist’s own inscription, and the unusual subject and style of this remarkable work, we propose 1657, the last year of Breenbergh’s life.