Bartholomeus Breenbergh

Dates1598 - 1657

Bartholomeus Breenbergh was probably first apprenticed in Amsterdam, but it was his years in Italy that were decisive. At about age twenty, Breenbergh went to Rome, where he lived with Flemish landscapist Paul Brill and was influenced by the intimate, deeply poetic landscapes of German expatriate Adam Elsheimer. Breenbergh belonged to the first generation of Dutch Italianates, artists who traveled to Italy in the 1620s and were inspired by its light and atmosphere. With Cornelis van Poelenburgh, whose early style is very similar, Breenbergh helped to bring the Italianate tradition of landscape to the Low Countries, reflecting a fascination on the part of northern European artists with Italian landscapes rather than with the local topography.

In Holland by 1633, Breenbergh specialized in scenes including Roman ruins, based on his drawings of Italy. In the 1630s he began introducing biblical and mythological figures and his compositions became larger and more ambitious. Breenbergh often painted Old Testament themes, but he placed the scenes themselves far in his landscape's background. His expressive figure types reveal affinities with those of Pieter Lastman. After 1645 he turned from landscape to narrative scenes and later painted portraits as well. By 1652 his productivity had dropped significantly; he may have become a merchant.