Colin Gleadell has been paying close attention to the Pieter Brueghel market. The son of the great master used to be considered a lesser talent. Jake and Dinos Chapman even mocked him by taking a copy of Brueghel’s Calvary and embellishing it, then retitling the work, “Oi, Peter, I C-C-C-Can See Your House from Here.”
The Brueghel market has been no laughing matter, as Gleadell illustrates:
Brueghel is one of the hottest artists on the Old Master market, and Sotheby’s has bagged not just one but three great examples of his work for its Old Master sales this summer. All are from a collection formed nearly 100 years ago by Baron Evence Coppée the 3rd, a Belgian industrialist whose grandfather invented a revolutionary coke-producing furnace.
Coppée began collecting art, mostly Flemish 16th- and 17th-century paintings, after he got married in 1919, and, having filled his grand new house in Brussels with art by 1930, he then stopped. The collection was kept discreet, with occasional loans to museums, but its reputation has grown in stature over the years. “The Coppée collection has cachet,” says London dealer Johnny van Haeften, who sold a £6 million Brueghel at Frieze Masters last year.
While various branches of the Coppée family have sold paintings from the collection in the past, this will be the largest disposal yet and will include several early Netherlandish panels and works by Jan Brueghel and Franz Francken the Younger, together with the three Pieter Brueghels. When Coppée bought them, Brueghel the Younger was not taken that seriously as an artist, so they would have been comparatively cheap. However, scholars were beginning to rescue him from the obscurity cast by the shadow of his famous father, Pieter Bruegel [sic] the Elder. Gradually, they began to count the number of versions of each subject that came out of Brueghel the Younger’s studio – and there were many.
Nowadays, the number of versions of a Brueghel painting does not diminish its value. On the contrary, it feeds the market. Three versions of The Peasant Lawyer were sold last year: one was bought in January in New York for £456,000, and sold in London in December for £1 million to a Russian buyer.
Art Sales: It’s the year of the Brueghel (Telegraph)