Early provenance a mystery

February 7, 2024


A rare painting by the 17th-century artist, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, recently fetched $845,000 at auction in Paris.  It was discovered by chance hanging behind the door of the television room of a family house in northern France.

It had been in the same family since 1900 but its earlier provenance remains a mystery. In the family it was known as ‘the Brueghel’ but they had no idea it was a real one. It was thought to be a copy – a bit of decoration that wasn’t worth very much.  Pieter Brueghel the Younger, born in Brussels, was the oldest son of the 16th-century Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Brueghel the Elder.      

The Village Lawyer, sometimes known as “The Tax Collector’s Office”, the “Notary’s Office”, the “Payment of the Tithe”, or the “Lawyer of Bad Cases”, is one of his rare original compositions and shows a chaotic scene with villagers queuing up in the lawyer’s chambers, many of them holding gifts including eggs and poultry.

 “L’Avocat du Village” (the Village Lawyer), a theme Pieter Brueghel reproduced up to 90 times. 
Photographed by Daguerre Val de Loire.

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