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Joos de Momper

(1564–1635, Antwerp)

A Castle on a Rock in a Hilly Landscape with a Small Village. Pen and brown ink, brown, grey and touches of pink wash. 16.8 x 30.2 cm. Watermark: Shield with Strasbourg Lily (cf. Piccard 1306, circa 1596).

This drawing with its powerful and confident hatchings is a convincing demonstration of Joos de Momper’s skills as a draughtsman. The leading member of a family of painters, he joined the Antwerp guild in 1581. The drawing on offer here is a previously unknown work which can safely be added to the artist’s corpus of drawings. It was probably executed before 1610, since works of this kind subsequently became much less frequent in his oeuvre. While similar landscapes by the youthful de Momper reveal the influence of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1525–1569), the present drawing may also reflect the artist’s own experience of the Alps, which he crossed on his way to Italy for a stay that was to last from 1581 to 1591. During this time de Momper probably studied under his fellow countryman, Lodewijk Toeput, also known as Pozzoserrato (c. 1550–1603/05). His influence is readily apparent in de Momper’s work, although the reverse is also true. Another artist to exert considerable influence on de Momper was Paul Bril (1554–1626).

The present drawing is close in spirit and composition to A Castle on a Crag in a Mountainous Landscape at Sunrise, which has a similar rocky crag with a tree on the left that functions as a repoussoir (ex coll. I.Q. van Regteren Altena, sale Christie’s London, 10 July 2014, lot 3). However, compared to this masterly, highly finished drawing our sheet is much more of a sketch, having mostly been executed with rapid and free strokes of the pen. Some washes have been applied as well, a technique frequently employed in de Momper’s drawn oeuvre. In this respect the present work appears to be closer to the drawing Mountain Landscape with a Road over a High Bridge, (Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, PD. 478–1963) which reveals a comparably free and spontaneous treatment. The composition and the motif of a cross on a rock in the centre with a village behind, meanwhile, are very similar to the drawing Hilly Landscape with a Cross in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Kassel (inv. no. GS 5057).

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