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Work Alpine landscape

Department of Prints and Drawings: 16th century

Paysage alpestre

Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN-Grand Palais - Photo M. Beck-Coppola

Prints and Drawings
16th century

Gardon Michèle

The drawing belonged to the great collector and art dealer Mariette, who discovered it while making an inventory of the collections of the Crozat banking family. Mariette described this and another work: "I have seen at Monsieur Crozat's two drawings by the elder Breughel, which I believe to have been made in Italy. They are views of the Alps, they are dated 1553, and are, in their details, supremely beautiful."

A cosmic vision

This grandiose Alpine panorama is the work of Pieter Bruegel the elder. As in all of his landscapes, nature is exalted and given center stage. Bruegel's vision of the mountain is sublime, yet it is rendered in remarkable detail. The scattering of tiny human figures and buildings is seemingly included solely to enhance the imposing majesty of the surrounding summits. The drawing does not seem to have done directly from nature but reconstructed from notes and sketches made during the artist's travels.

An inspired landscape artist

Pieter Bruegel was an inspired landscape painter, perpetually searching for new subjects. In 1552 he traveled to Italy for the first time, crossing the French Alps on his outward journey and returning via the Tyrol and Switzerland in 1553. The drawing's date and style identify it as part of Bruegel's first series of Italian landscapes. The picture allies the panoramic vision of the artist Joachim Patinir with the spatial organization of landscapes by such Venetian masters as Titian, Campagnola, or Muziano. It is clear that Bruegel was profoundly affected by the sight of the mountain and eager to render both the vast scale of his vision and the details he recalled.

Models for engravings

The etcher, print publisher, and dealer Hieronymus Cock, who issued a number of Breugel's alpine views, probably encouraged him to find new subjects in Italy for landscape engravings. However, none of the extant drawings made in 1553 is reproduced in the series of alpine engravings known as the Large Landscapes. The drawings probably informed the models for the engravings, of which only two examples survive, including one in the Louvre, dated 1555.


Duclaux Lise, in Le Cabinet d'un grand amateur Pierre-Jean Mariette, cat. exp., Paris, musée du Louvre, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1967, n 156.
Liess Reinhard, "Die kleinen Landschaften Pieter Bruegels d. A. im Lichte seines Gesamtwerks (Teil 2)", in Kunsthistorisches Jahrbuch Graz, 1981, pp. 35-150, fig. 102.
Malke Lutz, in Pieter Bruegel d. A. als Zeichner : Herkunft und Nachfolge, cat. exp. Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, 1975, n 3, pl. 67.
Mielke Hans, Pieter Bruegel : die Zeichnungen, Turnhout, 1996, n 16.
Münz L., The Drawings of Bruegel, Londres, 1961, n 5, repr. pl. 5.
Oberhuber Konrad, "Bruegel's Early Landscape Drawings", in Master Drawings, n 2, 1981, pp. 146-156, repr. pl. 25.
Orenstein Nadine M., Sellink Manfred, Müller Jürgen (sous la dir. de), Pieter Bruegel the Elde : Drawings and Prints, cat. exp. Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 24 mai-5 août 2001 ; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 25 septembre-2 décembre 2001, n 12.
Tolnay Charles de, The Drawings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, with a critical catalogue, Londres, 1952, p. 44 et p. 57, n 10, repr. pl. 6.

Technical description

  • Pieter BRUEGEL the Elder (Bruegel?, circa 1525-Brussels, 1569)

    Alpine landscape

    Circa 1553

  • Pen and brown ink

    H. 23.6 cm; W. 34.3 cm

  • Pierre Crozat collection; its sale, Paris, 10 April-13 May 1741, no. 904 or 908; Pierre Mariette collection, mounted with a cartouche: PETRUS BREUGHEL Senior; sale of this collection, Paris, 15 November 1775, part of lot no. 840; purchased at this sale for the King's Chamber.

    INV 19728

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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Additional information about the work

Signed BRUEGHEL above date 1553, in pen, bottom center