Teniers, David

(Antwerp 1610 - 1690 Brussels)

A Summer and a Winter

Oil on panel
12 x 17.3 cm

A Summer and a Winter

London, Royal Academy, Exhibition of Old Masters …, 1878, nos. 118, 125

Manuscript catalogue of the pictures and sculptures at Langley Hall, dated 1815, nos. 6,
J.P. Neale, Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen …, vol. 3, 1820

David Teniers was the greatest and certainly the most productive genre artist of the seventeenth century in the Southern Netherlands. He continued and reinterpreted the Bruegelian tradition of peasant painting. These two exquisitely painted allegories of summer and winter by his hand continue this medieval tradition of depictions of the seasons. Already in the famous, late fourteenth-century manuscript illuminations of the Limbourg brothers the subject of the seasons was used as a pretext to give an idealized vision of country life, replete with acutely observed detail. The seasons by Pieter Bruegel the Elder form another well-known highpoint in the genre and gave it fresh impetus. Showing the cycle of life and reminding of the fixed order of things, these series provided viewers with a welcome visual sense of stability in a time fraught with distress and confusion. At the same time, these scenes often contain a catalogue of comical detail typical for each season and offer entertainment.

In the summer scene two travellers wave goodbye to the landlord as they leave his inn, their dog leading the way. In the background a shepherd and dog keep a watchful eye on a herd of sheep. Creamy clouds stand out against the blue sky. The snow-covered landscape of the winter scene makes the cold palpable. An elderly couple with two swines can be seen in the foreground. A magpie is perched on the barren branch of the tree left, another approaches in the air. Plumes of smoke rise up from the chimneys.

Rural scenes were a popular theme in literature and in the visual arts ever since Vergil wrote his Bucolics. The alluring countryside attracted the well-to-do who purchased country residences to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery. The artist himself was also well-off and in 1662/63 bought the manor called ‘Dry Toren’ near Brussels, from Jan van Brouchoven, the second husband of Rubens’s second wife, Hélène Fourment. Our pair of panels was probably painted in this mature phase of Teniers’ career during the 1660s.

Teniers painted a number of series of the seasons, which could either be divided in summer and winter or in four; summer, autumn, winter and spring. Many of theses cycles have fallen apart. The Noordbrabants Museum in ‘s-Hertogenbosch keeps a rare example of a full series, consisting of four large slates of copper showing extensive landscapes (inv. 11.364). Another complete series in the National Gallery of London is comprised of four small copper plates, each showing one figure with a customary attribute (NG857-860).

Our beautifully preserved pair of landscapes was painted rapidly. The spirited brushwork lends these small panels their immediacy. Together with Teniers’s brilliant palette it contributes to their irresistible charm.

David Teniers the Younger was the son of the painter and art dealer David Teniers the Elder and Dymphna de Wilde. He initially trained in his father’s studio and they collaborated on paintings. The older Teniers mainly executed landscapes with religious or mythological scenes, showing the influence of Adam Elsheimer. Teniers the Younger entered the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke in 1632/33, specialising in low-life interior genre pieces and landscapes enlivened with peasants. From the outset his pictures were greatly in demand. Owing to his enormous output he soon became one of the most recognized painters in Flanders and in the process rapidly attained a fortune. David Teniers’ social status is indicated by his marriage in 1637 to Anna Brueghel, daughter of Jan Brueghel the Elder, with Rubens acting as a witness. In 1645/46 David Teniers was dean of the Antwerp guild. He soon attracted the attention of the governor general, Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, who gave him commissions in 1647. In 1651 he even entered Leopold Wilhelm’s service, moving to the latter’s court in Brussels. At the same time he was appointed director of the Archduke’s impressive collection of paintings. In May 1656 Teniers’ first wife died. In the same year Leopold Wilhelm left for Vienna. The artist remarried in October of that same year with Isabella de Fren and continued to work for the Brussels court, now serving Don Juan of Austria (1656-59) and various other noble patrons. In 1664, Teniers became the driving force behind the foundation of the Antwerp Academy. Teniers died a wealthy man and one of the most esteemed masters of his age.

Please contact Mr. Sander Bijl for more information