A hefty result had been expected for the first French portrait of a hunter, painted by Jean Daret, which was preempted by a museum. But the price paid for a painting by Pieter Bruegel Younger—over a million euros—was a surprise.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564-1638), The Peasants’ Meal in the Village, oil on oak panel, 43 x 58.5 cm (16.93 x 23.04 in).
All eyes were on Portrait de chasseur assis en compagnie de ses chiens (Portrait of a Seated Hunter with His Dogs), a 1661 oil on canvas by Brussels artist Jean Daret, who settled in Aix-en-Provence in 1636 and spent the rest of his life there. La Gazette revealed that this was the "first French portrait of a hunter", snatching that honor away from Alexandre-François Desportes, who until then was thought to have "invented" the genre in France with his famous 1699 Autoportrait en chasseur (Self-portrait as a Hunter). Nicasius Bernaerts (1620-1678) painted the quiet, affable, friendly-looking model posing between his three dogs and his booty. Bernaerts, also a Fleming but a very French one, specialized in animal paintings.
The model is undoubtedly a Provençal noble who remains to be identified with certainty. The Museum of Hunting and Nature preempted this historic work for €373,520, breaking the artist’s world record (source: Artnet). Closed for expansion work since July 1, 2019, the Paris museum is set to reopen this spring with six new rooms. This painting will naturally have a prominent place there.
A bit earlier in the afternoon, a bidder bought an oak panel signed by Pieter Bruegel the Younger (1564-1638) for an unexpected price: €1,352,400. The great Pieter the Elder’s son is often considered a brilliant interpreter of his father’s work, but The Peasants’ Meal in the Village is a completely original composition. However, in his 1969 monograph on artist Georges Marlier cites just two examples of pure invention. This one is now the third.