Temple of the Tiburtine Sibyl at Tivoli, 1627.
Bartholomeus Breenbergh (Dutch, 1598–1657)
Pen and brown ink, brush, and brown and grayish-brown washes on buff laid paper, 12 3/4 x 12 3/16 in. (32.5 x 31 cm). Crocker Art Museum, E. B. Crocker Collection, 1871.155.

Born in Deventer and apparently first active as an artist in Amsterdam, Bartholomäus Breenbergh (1598–1657) was among the earliest of the flood of Dutch artists who would study in Rome during the seventeenth century. He was a founding member of the Schildersbent, the society of Dutch painters working in Rome. Although he remained in Rome for about a decade, from c. 1619–c. 1629, relatively few of his paintings from this period are known, and his artistic development can be traced mainly through his drawings. During this time, he worked with the Dutch painter Paul Bril (1554–1626) who exerted an important influence on the younger artist. His draughtsmanship also resembles that of his contemporary Cornelis Poelenbergh (1594 or 1595–1667), a fellow student of Brill's.(1) After Breenbergh’s return to Amsterdam, he turned for inspiration to an earlier generation of Dutch artists, the “Pre-Rembrandtists,” in particular to Pieter Lastman (1583–1633). During this later stage of his career, Breenbergh favored biblical scenes set in somewhat mannered landscapes, peppered with classical ruins of the type he saw in Rome, though he also painted portraits.(2)

In contrast to his sparse output of paintings during his Roman period, Breenbergh’s production of drawings from this decade was prodigious and forms the largest part of his oeuvre. He mined these drawings for motifs for the rest of his life, repeating the ruins he sketched in both etchings and paintings. While he sometimes drew pure landscapes, he favored views of the Roman countryside that included architecture, such as scenes from the Orsini park at Bomarzo and the classical ruins at Tivoli. In technique and subject matter, the Crocker drawing is typical of his draughtsmanship: most of his Roman drawings, like this one, consist of black chalk underdrawings overlaid with brown ink and wash. Clearly fascinated by the dramatic effects of the bright Italian sunlight passing over crumbling ruins, the artist used a wide variety of touches, ranging from broad areas of smooth wash through a range of different pen strokes, to capture the fall of light and shadow.

The town of Tivoli, located about twenty miles outside of Rome, over centuries attracted artists to its Roman ruins, dramatic waterfalls, and views of the surrounding campagna. Breenbergh returned to the area a number of times during his years in Rome. Although he sketched a variety of views, here he chose to concentrate on the most popular of the ruins, the circular Temple of the Sibyl, or Temple of Vesta. Dating from the first century BC, the temple was later used as a Christian chapel: a lunette of the Madonna is visible through the door in the present drawings. The same temple appears in a number of other drawings by Breenbergh.(3) The unsigned drawing in Dresden is another version of the Crocker sheet, which Christian Dittrich regards as a workshop copy.(4) Dittrich points out that the irregularities and weak areas in the Dresden sketch are corrected in the Crocker version, resulting in a less spontaneous, more careful drawing. Indeed, the precision with which the draughtsman followed the black chalk guidelines with pen and wash suggests that the Crocker drawing may be a later version completed in the studio rather than in situ. The liveliness of handling and sparkling contrast between sun and shade, however, are characteristic of Breenbergh’s Roman drawings, and there is no reason to believe the Crocker drawing is a workshop copy rather than a second version by the artist, who sometimes repeated his own compositions.

Stacey Sell, in William Breazeale, with Cara Denison, Stacey Sell, and Freyda Spira, A Pioneering Collection: Master Drawings from the Crocker Art Museum, exh. cat. Sacramento and tour, 2010

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Notes:

(1) Their drawings are often confused: see, for instance, Marian Bisanz-Prakken, Rembrandt and His Time: Masterworks from the Albertina, exh. cat. Milwaukee Art Museum, 2005, no. 262.

(2) For overviews of Breenbergh’s career, see M. Roethlisberger, Bartholomeus Breenbergh: The Paintings, Berlin, 1981; Roethlisberger 1969 as in Literature above, and Peter Schatborn, Drawn to Warmth, 17th-century Dutch Artists in Italy, exh. cat. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2001, pp. 66–73.

(3) The attribution of the drawing in the Pierpont Morgan Library is a matter of some controversy (Jane Shoaf Turner and Felice Stampfle, Dutch Drawings in the Pierpont Morgan Library, Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries, 2 vols., New York, 2006, no. 286, as “attributed to Swanevelt.” as well as the version in Dresden (Dittrich 1997 as in Literature above, no. 78).

(4) Roethlisberger 1969 as in Literature above, no. 87, on the other hand, attributed the Dresden version to Poelenburgh.

Inscriptions: black chalk, lower right: BB [monogram] f. Ano 1627; dark brown ink, lower right corner: Tempio della Sybilla Tiburtina a Tivoli

Marks: lower right corner: Lugt 2237 (Rolas du Rosey)

Provenance: Carl Freiherr von Rolas du Rosey, before 1862; his sale, Leipzig, Rudolph Weigel, 13 June 1864, lot 4395; Rudolph Weigel, Leipzig, by 1849, Kunstlagerkatalog no. 1109; Edwin Bryant Crocker, Sacramento, by 1871; gift of his widow Margaret to the Museum, 1885

Literature: William Breazeale, with Cara Denison, Stacey Sell, and Freyda Spira, A Pioneering Collection: Master Drawings from the Crocker Art Museum, exh. cat. Sacramento and tour, 2010, no. 21; Christian Dittrich, Van Eyck, Bruegel, Rembrandt, Niederländische Zeichnungen des 15. bis 17. Jahrhunderts aus dem Kuperstich-Kabinett Dresden, exh. cat. Dresden, 1997, under no. 78; Jeffrey Ruda, The Art of Drawing, Old Masters from the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California, exh. cat. Flint, 1992, no. 56; Jeffrey Ruda, The World of Old Master Drawings: A Centennial Exhibition at the Crocker Art Museum, exh. brochure, Sacramento, 1985, no. 4; Felice Stampfle, Rubens and Rembrandt in their Century, Flemish and Dutch Drawings of the 17th Century from the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, 1979, under no. 62; Remnants of Things Past, exh. cat. Museum of Fine Arts, Saint Petersburg, Florida, 1971, no. 8; Marcel Roethlisberger, Bartholomäus Breenbergh, Handzeichnungen, Berlin, 1969, no. 88; Jürgen Schultz, Master Drawings from California Collections, exh. cat. Berkeley, 1968, no. 65; Malcolm Waddingham, “Adam Elsheimer and His Circle at Frankfurt,” The Burlington Magazine 109, no. 766, Jan. 1967, p. 48, note 8; The Changeful Earth, exh. cat. UCLA, Los Angeles, 1955, no. 15; Numa S. Trivas, Old Master Drawings from the E. B. Crocker Collection, the Dutch and Flemish Masters, unpubl. ms., Sacramento, 1942, no. 17; Numa S. Trivas, Three Centuries of Landscape Drawing, exh. cat. Sacramento, 1940, no. 25; Rolas du Rosey sale, Leipzig, Rudolph Weigel, 1864, no. 4395; Rudolph Weigel, Kunstlagerkatalog, Leipzig, 1838–66, no. 1109

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