1553/54 Breda - 1626 Rome
Copper, 13,5 x 18,2 cm
Signed and dated 1594
The small painting fits perfectly in the early production of the Flemish painter Paul Bril (Antwerp 1550/1554 c. -Rome 1626).
Paul Bril arrived in Rome slightly before 1580, and there he died in 1626.
In the first years of his activity, he collaborated with his brother Matthjis (Antwerp 1550 - Rome 1583), working at the fresco decoration of the Tower of the Wings in the Vatican palaces. Here the Brils realized some of the first costal views in the history of painting (Cappelletti 2006, p. 204-205, ill. 1a-1b); the original ideas were probably due to Matthjis Bril, a fine and inventive draughtsman, but Paul reproduced the compositions several times both in frescoes and small paintings.
Soon after the Tower of Wings, in the early 1580s the Brils were employed by the Orsini family in Monterotondo, a village near Rome, where they painted two friezes in the reception rooms. Here again we find costal scenes, one in particular showing a rock dramatically towering on the water (Cappelletti 2006, p. 207, ill. 2b).
After his brother's death in 1583, Paul Bril worked a lot in great fresco decorations during the pontificate of Sixtus V (1585-1590) leaving on the walls of the Scala Santa in Laterano one of the major examples for the costal scene with a religious subject, such as Jonas' Shipwreck (Cappelletti 2006, p. 211 and ff,) derived from a drawing attributed to Matthijs (Cappelletti 2006, p.211) which constituted a source of continuous inspiration for Paul in the following years.
In fact he produced a certain number of version of the same scene probably between 1588 and 1592 and worked to a new setting of the elements of the costal landscape slightly after.
A series of small paintings (Coastal Landscape, Rome, Galleria Borghese, Cappelletti 2006, p. 219, n. 19; Coastal Landscape, koeln, Walraff Richartz Museum, p. 222, n. 22) dating between 1594 and 1596 show a landscape similar to the one on the background of or painting. We can in fact recognize the tall rock and the round tower on the sea; the date 1594 on the painting is an important post quem for the elaboration of this composition, very successful among collectors.
We are grateful to Francesca Cappelletti for confirming the attribution.