Workshop of Jan Brueghel the Elder (Brussels 1568-1625 Antwerp)
An Allegory of Air oil on panel 47.2 x 83.2cm (18 9/16 x 32 3/4in).
PROVENANCE Acquired by the present owner's family approximately 200 years ago and thence by descent
The present composition, which would originally have been conceived as one of a set of Allegories of the Four Elements, follows the design of Jan Brueghel the Elder's celebrated set of Allegories in the Galleria Doria Pamphilij, Rome. Artists who worked in the workshop of Brueghel who are known to have imitated his composition include Jan Brueghel the Younger (1601-1678) and Jan van Kessel (1626-1679). An example of this composition by Jan Brueghel the Younger, in which Hendrik van Balen collaborated in painting the figures, is a panel, 55.9 x 99.5 cm., that was with Richard Green Gallery, London, 1979-90. A signed example by Jan van Kessel, on panel, 53.5 x 94.5 cm., was sold at Christie's, London, 7 July 2010, lot 16.
The present composition differs from all the other known versions in its incorporation of what appears to be a mythical flightless bird which can be seen in the centre behind the turkey, replacing the egret which is present in all the other known compositions by Jan Brueghel the Elder and his workshop. This exotic array of birdlife represents the variety of fowl that would have been recently known from the newly discovered Netherlandish colonies.