Sebastiaen Vrancx

Travellers attacked on a country road

Sebastiaen Vrancx was born in Antwerp in 1573. After his training in the workshop of Adam van Noort, who also trained other famous painters, such as Peter Paul Rubens and Hendrick van Balen, he travelled to Italy around 1597, where he visited the workshop of famous landscape painter Paul Bril in 1600. After his return to Antwerp, he established himself as a painter, foremost of cavalry and battle scenes and robberies. He taught several students, such as the well-known cavalry painter Pieter Snayers.

However, research has shown that Vrancx successfully pursued other activities as well. Not only was Vrancx an engraver; he was a leading member of De Violieren, the well-known Antwerp Chamber of Rhetoric for which he collaborated on a beautiful heraldic shield with his fellow members Jan I Brueghel, Hendrick van Balen and Frans II Francken. It is still kept in the Royal Museum of Fine Art of Antwerp today. Vrancx was also a respected writer who wrote several plays, none of which, sadly, have been preserved. It is also in this context that his work on a series of drawings illustrating Virgil’s Aeneid – ten of which we sold to the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp – must be seen.

The present painting is iconographically very typical of Vrancx’ oeuvre: it depicts a convoy of wagons being held up on a forest road. Highwaymen jump out of the bushes (one, to the right, is still hiding), horsemen gallop up and down, men fall in the general chaos. What makes this painting unique, however, is that it is painted only in grisaille and brunaille tones – which is very rarely seen anyway, but especially so in Vrancx’ oeuvre. The black-and-white tonality lends the painting an almost contemporary look.

We are grateful to Dr. Joost Van der Auwera (KMSKB) for confirming the attribution to Sebastiaen Vrancx and suggesting a date of ca. 1615 for the work.

Artist: Sebastiaen Vrancx (Antwerp 1573 - 1637)
Medium: oil on panel
Dimensions: 20 x 34 cm