Because of his fondness of certain subjects and glowing enamel paint, Jan, the second son of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, was given the nickname “Velvet” or “Flower” Brueghel.
The first lessons he received from his grandmother, painter-miniaturist Mayken Verhulst Bessemers, who gave direction to his interests and technique, further developed by his teachers, including Pieter Goetkint and Gillis van Coninxloo (1544-1607). About seven years, 1589-1596, Brueghel spent in Italy: He worked in Naples (1590), Rome (1592-94), and then in Milan (1596) for Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, who became his patron.
In 1597 he returned to Amsterdam, where he became a member of the Lucas Guild in 1601. It is known that in 1604 he traveled to Prague. In 1610 the Archduke Albrecht of Austria, Spanish Governor of the Netherlands, appointed him a court painter. He was a friend of Rubens with whom he collaborated, including the magnificent flower garland in Rubens’ Madonna in the Flower Wreath while Rubens painted figures for many of his works, e.g. Adam and Eve in Paradise, Allegory of Sight et.al. Around 1613 Brueghel and Rubens together with Hendrick van Balen traveled to Holland.
Brueghel was well-to-do and respected, owning several houses in Antwerp as well as a considerable art collection.
Besides historical scenes, paradisiacal images of animals, and genre scenes, he was above all a painter of landscape and of flower pieces. As a specialist of “accessories” he collaborated with Frans Francken, Hans Rottenhammer and Joos de Momper, van Balen, F. Francken II et al.
His sons Jan Brueghel II (1601-78) and Ambrosius Brueghel (1617-75) copied his style and continued his work; their sons in their turn, carried on the tradition into the 18th century.
Allegorical depiction of the senses became very popular during the 16th century.
Allegory of Sight, for which Rubens painted the figures, is among the most complex, comprising allegorical objects and figures drawn with great accuracy. Cupid is depicted showing a painting of Christ healing a blind man. The optical instruments – including a telescope, astrolabe, and globe – painting, statues, flowers, and jewelry are all objects perceived with the sense of sight. Each has been painstakingly characterized with true Flemish skill, sensitive brush strokes, and bright color, so that even the minutest of details is accurately reproduced. The series of five panels is in Prado all feature backgrounds in the manner of large opulent stage settings with extensions shown in perspective.
See: Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens. Allegory of Sight.
Jan Brueghel the Elder. Allegory of Hearing. Allegory of Taste. Allegory of Smell (Bouquet of Flowers).
The Four Elements – air, water, earth, and fire – according to a tradition derived from Greek philosophy, were the components of every worldly object. The allegory of the four elements was a frequent subject in 17th century painting. For this panel Hendrick van Balen painted the figures that personify the elements.
See: Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hendrick van Balen (1575-1632). The Four Elements.
A Flemish Market and Washing-Place. Joos de Momper the Younger painted the landscape, while Brueghel provided lively figures engaged in everyday activities.
See: Jan Brueghel the Elder and Joos Momper the Younger (1564-1635). A Flemish Market and Washing-Place.
Assault on a Convay. Sebastian Vrancx specialized in military scenes, in this picture, Brueghel painted the landscape.
See: Jan Brueghel the Elder and Sebastian Vrancx (1573-1647). Assault on a Convay.
Dutch Genre Painting. XVII century. by E. Fehner. Moscow. Izobrazitelnoe Iskusstvo. 1979.
Painting of Europe. XIII-XX centuries. Encyclopedic Dictionary. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1999
Jan Brueghel The Elder: The Entry Of The Animals Into Noah's Ark by Arianne Faber Kolb. J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005.