Pieter Bruegel
known as the Elder

Battle in the Bay of Naples

42,2 x 71,2 cm; oil on wood panel (FC 546)

This is an early example of the genre which became more fully developed at the height of 18th century. It shows the port of Naples, where a probably imaginary battle is being fought. Bruegel’s sojourn in Italy started in 1552, where he visited Rome, Calabria, and Sicily. During this tour he probably spent some time in Naples. Though this painting was executed in Italy, it is stylistically very much reminiscent of 16th century Flemish landscapes. The portrayal of even the most minute details, and the bird’s eye view, are typical of that school. The remarkable drawings the artist did on his travels towards the south were made into engravings and printed, the very similar composition of Frans Huys’ Naval Battle in the Strait of Messina print (1561), would appear to attest to this. There are two mentions of paintings by Pieter in old records that might refer to ours: one is in an inventory from 1607 belonging to cardinal Perrenot de Granvelle, governor of the Netherlands and collector of this artist’s paintings, the other concerns the pieces owned by Rubens (1640).

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