The fascination exerted by the works of the illustrious Pieter Bruegel the Elder in the decades following his death in 1569 is matched only by the intense interest they generate today. At the end of the sixteenth century and in the first half of the seventeenth, the most ambitious art collectors fought over the few paintings by the master that were still on the market. This setting was the catalyst for the appearance of copies and pastiches – and even deliberate forgeries. It was then that the elder son of Pieter Bruegel, known as Pieter Brueghel the Younger (whose name is spelled ‘Brueghel’ here, conforming to the signature that he adopted during the initial phase of his career) emerged as a legitimate successor, producing astonishingly faithful replicas of his father’s paintings. This was all the more surprising given that they were often made after works that were by then dispersed in diverse and sometimes inaccessible private collections. Operating within the context of a sizeable workshop, Brueghel supplied the market with hundreds of copies of variable quality according to demand. This enterprise merited re-evaluation from a technical point of view: how were such vast numbers of copies produced in practice?
This three-volume book explores the intriguing Brueg[H]el phenomenon through the two artists’ painting practices. The technical aspects of their works are investigated in a detective-like manner and are strikingly elucidated with a wealth of colour illustrations. The reader will come to understand the accomplished practitioner behind the genius that is Bruegel the Elder and the working procedures of his foremost emulator’s workshop. Furthermore, Brueghel the Younger’s exceptional qualities as a painter are singled out from those of his workshop production. The book also reveals fresh discoveries on the father’s creative process through the study of his son’s copies.
"The resulting three-volume box set, is a milestone. (...) Detective story and visual archive, the 'Bruegel box' is now the standard reference on the technique and copying practices of Pieter Bruegel and his first-born son. (...) - a jewel-box for anyone who loves Bruegel." (Odilia Bonebakker, in: Historians of Netherlandish Art, www.hnanews.org/hna/bookreview/current/16_currie-allart1012.html)
"The value of this study is immense. (...) the hundreds of close-ups set against various replicas (...) represent an unmissable object lesson in the difference between a great painter and a whole host of bad ones." (David Ekserdjian, in Apollo, March 2013, p. 182-183)
"This lavish, three-volume gift box is only for specialists, but is a milestone of patient, persistent visual research. (...) Its boxed three volumes provide a weighty reference - the gift that keeps on giving - for any future Bruegel (and Brueghel) appreciation." (Prof. Larry Silver, in Cassone, April 2013)
"The book is the culmination of over a decade's research by Christina Currie and Dominique Allart into the painting techniques of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and his son Pieter Brueghel the Younger. The text is lavishly illustrated and buyers of the book can also access a website with more than 2000 extra illustrations which substantiate the author's theories. It is a must-read for any Bruegel enthusiast or those interested in the context of sixteenth and seventeenth century painting practice and production. (...) This excellent study is an exemplary demonstration of how useful technical analysis can be when the research is so thorough and cohesive; the book can be relied upon by conservators and art historians to reassess existing works that were not part of the present study and to help attribute copies which might be unearthed in the future." (Alice Tate-Harte, in: The Picture Restorer, N° 42, Spring 2013, p. 55-58)