VI. The painting’s provenance (Gonzaga (?), Medinaceli)

The first known, documented owner of the present work was Luis Francisco de la Cerda y Aragón, 9th Duke of Medinaceli (1660-1711), who probably acquired it during the years that he spent in Italy, first as Spanish Ambassador in Rome (1687-1696), then as Viceroy in Naples (1696-1702)14. The inventory of his collection reveals its remarkable quality and the fact that it included paintings of the importance of The Spinners by Velázquez and Rubens painting the Allegory of Peace by Luca Giordano (both Museo del Prado). The present work appears in that inventory as number 39:

Otra de Bruguel con la fiesta de san Martín y sus hijos q. tiene de largo tres varas y de alto zinco pies marco moldado y dorado no.144…8000 rs. [Another by Bruegel of the Feast of Saint Martin and his children which measures three varas wide and five feet high moulded and gilded frame no.144...8,000 reales.]

The extremely high value placed on the work is striking, particularly if compared, for example, to the value of 3,000 reales assigned to The Spinners, which appears as number 18 in this inventory.

The painting was in Spain no later than 1702 if not before. This was the year in which the 9th Duke left his post as Viceroy of Naples and returned to the Madrid court. Since that date it has been in the collection of the same family.

It is highly likely that the present work is the same one that was to be found in the early 17th century in the celebrated Gonzaga collection in Mantua. Numerous works from that collection subsequently made their way into the Spanish royal collections and from there to the Prado. In the inventory of that collection drawn up in 1626-27 there is a reference to a painting in the Galleria della Mostra in the ducal palace in Mantua, the same gallery in which Andrea Mantegna’s nine Triumphs of Caesar were displayed:

Un quadro dipintovi la festa di S. Martino con una quantità di pitochi che bevano ad una botta, opera del Bruol Vecchio, L.36015

[A picture in which is painted the feast of Saint Martin with many poor people drinking from a barrel, a work of Bruegel the Elder, 360 Liras]

This painting, like others attributed to Bruegel in the Gonzaga collection, was acquired by Duke Vincenzo II, a great connoisseur of Flemish painting and a patron of Rubens, possibly during the trip that he made to Flanders in 160816. The painting again has a high value placed on it in the inventory in comparison to other works (for example, The Burial of Christ by Titian, now in the Louvre, which is valued at 300 liras, and The Death of the Virgin by Caravaggio, also in the Louvre, valued at 600 liras). Despite the fact that it is firmly attributed to Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the inventory does not state whether it is a tuchlein or is painted on some other type of support as it is simply referred to as “un quadro”, nor is its size given. Nonetheless, the description is sufficiently precise to allow the painting to be identified as depicting The Wine of Saint Martin’s Day.

Some art historians have identified this description in the Gonzaga inventory with the fragment now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, formerly in the collection of the Archduke Leopold William, according to the 1659 inventory17, but which is not an original work by Bruegel, as noted above, for which reason this identification can be questioned. While it is not known how the Gonzaga painting could have come into the possession of the 9th Duke of Medinaceli, the fact in itself would not be surprising.

14 Vicente Lleó Cañal published the inventory of the collection assembled by the Duke (Burlington Magazine, vol. 131, no. 1031, pp. 108-116). Although Lleó published it as the inventory of Luis Francisco, it includes works that belonged to his nephew and successor, the 10th Duke, albeit separated from those belonging to his predecessor. It seems highly likely that this inventory was not drawn up immediately after the death of Luis Francisco in 1711 but at some time soon after this when his nephew, Nicolás Fernández de Córdoba, Marquis of Priego and Duke of Feria, acquired ownership of his predecessor’s possessions when he assumed the title of 10th Duke of Medinaceli, and the inventory must have been among his papers. This is proved by the phrase that appears in the inventory itself: Inventario General de Todos los trastos y Vienes Muebles pertenecientes a la Cassa del Exmo. Sr. Marques [de Priego] Duque de Medinaceli, mi Señor. Back

15 A. Luzio, La Galleria Gonzaga, 1913, p. 104. Back

16 D. Mattioli, “Nuove ipotesi sui quadri di ‘Bruol Vecchio’ appartenuti ai Gonzaga”, Civiltà Mantovana, X (1976), pp. 32-43. Back

17 See S. Lapenta and R. Morselli, La Collezione Gonzaga. La Quadreria nell’elenco dei beni del 1626-1627, Milan, 2006, [892], p. 228. Back

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