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Gillis van Breen

(active circa 1595–1622 in Haarlem)

A Couple Making Music. Engraving after Cornelis IJsbrantsz. Kussens. 26.1 x 19 cm. Hollstein 71. Watermark: Strasbourg Bend.

This high-quality, finely executed genre scene is certainly the outstanding print made by Gillis van Breen. Taught by Hendrick Goltzius or his stepson, Jacob Matham, he was active from about 1595 in Haarlem. The harmonious interplay between the lute and the fiddle can be seen as an allegory of marital harmony, although the inscription leaves no doubt as to the hierar­chical relationship within the bond of matrimony. The husband is head of the household and his word counts; if his wife does as he tells her there will be harmony, just as there is in the making of music.

Van Breen’s highly sophisticated engraving style with its dense and varied hatching patterns reveal a clear debt to the aesthetic principles of the Goltzius School. The attention to genre-like detail and the refined rendering of textures are further indications of the defining stylistic influence of Hendrick Goltzius. The engraving is exceedingly rare. A superb, contrasting impression with even margins. In mint condition.

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