recto Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Master of the Small Landscapes, Netherlandish (active c. 1560)
Women Bleaching Linen Near a Walled Town
Work Type
c. 1560
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Two kinds of brown ink over black chalk on cream antique laid paper, lined with Japanese paper
13.4 x 20.5 cm (5 1/4 x 8 1/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: lower left, brown ink: . . brughel fec.
  • inscription: verso, center, brown ink: Pbreughel (Pierre) le Jeune [overwritten by "Vieux"], dit d'Enfer [crossed out] [entire line underlined] / h = 0,"132 L = 0,"203 / Dessin acheté [illegible] a mon frère Paul Emile à / Avesnes en 1891 / C. Gasc
  • inscription: verso, under lining, upper left, red chalk: S.P.
  • inscription: verso, under lining, lower left, graphite: P. Breughel Ecole Flamande
  • inscription: former repair, brown ink: Wam bandvy Jams. [?]
  • inscription: verso, lower right, graphite: 10
  • collector's mark: lower right, red ink, stamp: L. 543 (Charles Gasc)
  • inscription: verso, under lining, upper right, graphite: P. Brueghel / fec [?] / (le vieux) / 17 [?]
  • inscription: upper left, brown ink: 1 [?]
  • inscription: upper right, brown ink: 52
  • watermark: none
Charles Gasc, Paris (L. 543, lower right, and L. 1068, verso, center), sold; to Amédée-Paul-Emile Gasc, Avesnes (L. 1131, without his mark). [Kate de Rothschild, London], sold; to Seiden and Cuevas, Inc., New York, later Vermeer Associates Limited, Brampton, Ontario, sold; to Harvard University Art Museums, 1994; The Kate, Maurice R. and Melvin R. Seiden Special Purchase Fund, 1994.137
Published Text
Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums
William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson
Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016)

Catalogue entry no. 57 by William W. Robinson:

The forty-four etchings known as the “Small Landscapes” appeared in two suites, dated 1559 and 1561.1 As advertised in the title of the 1559 set, they depict “various cottages, farms, fields, roads, and the like, ornamented with animals of all sorts. All portrayed from life, and mostly situated in the country near Antwerp.”2 In contrast to the “world landscapes” represented by most sixteenth-century Netherlandish landscapists (1999.132), with their high horizons and imaginary, composite scenery, these innovative prints show intimate views of the local countryside based (as the title claims) on studies from life. They anticipate by more than fifty years the naturalistic approach developed by seventeenth-century Dutch artists.3

The Antwerp publisher Hieronymus Cock brought out both series, but neither the printmaker nor the designer is identified in the early editions. Most authorities accept the attribution of the etchings to the brothers Joannes and Lucas van Doetecum,4 but no consensus has developed around the authorship of the related drawings. An edition issued in 1601 named Cornelis Cort as designer, while Claes Jansz. Visscher, who etched copies of the Small Landscapes in 1612, ascribed the original compositions to Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Twentieth-century art historians introduced several candidates, in addition to Cort and Bruegel, but none presented a conclusive identification of the draftsman.5

Twelve drawings that served as direct models for prints in the two series have survived.6 Executed primarily in brown ink, most were completed in two campaigns, with the figures, animals, and all or part of the foreground added in darker ink than the buildings and trees that comprise the main features of the composition.7 Eight drawings of similar dimensions and handling belong to the group, but were not reproduced as prints.8 Some of those were also finished in darker ink.9 Reinhard Liess, who devoted an exhaustive study to the Small Landscapes, attributed the first states of the drawings to two distinct hands.10 The additions in darker ink—where they appear—are in most cases by a third draftsman, who completed the landscapes before the Van Doetecums etched them.11

Women Bleaching Linen Near a Walled Town was not reproduced as an etching in either series of Small Landscapes. Before it came to light in 1981, an identical version in the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence, passed as the original of this composition.12 Liess, who knew the Harvard work only from a photograph, regarded it as a copy or replica of the Uffizi drawing.13 However, the primacy of the Harvard sheet seems indisputable. Most importantly, its production followed the same sequence as most drawings in the group: the walls and buildings were studied—presumably on site—in a lighter brown ink, while the bleaching field and staffage were added in a darker tone. Examination with infrared light distinguishes the separate campaigns (Fig. 1).14 That a copyist would have proceeded in two stages, with different inks, is unlikely. The Uffizi version was completed in a single campaign, using only one ink.15 Furthermore, the Harvard sheet belonged to the same early collection as at least four other drawings in the group. The (seventeenth-century?) hand that wrote the number 52 in the upper right corner also numbered two sheets at Chatsworth and one each in Berlin and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.16 The numeration must predate the acquisition of the Chatsworth drawings by the Devonshire family, probably in the first quarter of the eighteenth century.17 The handling of the figures and foreground in the Harvard sheet is by the same hand as in two drawings at Chatsworth, in which architectural views also dominate the backgrounds.18

The site represented in the drawing has not been identified.


1 Henk Nalis in New Hollstein, The Van Doetecum Family, part 1, nos. 118–61, pp. 94–109.

2 “Vele ende seer fraeye ghe-leghentheden van diverssche Dorphuysinghen, Hoe-ven, Velden, Straten, ende dyer ghelijcken, met alderhande Beestkens verciert. Al te samen ghe-conterfeyt naer dleven, ende meest rontom Antwerpen gheleghen sijnde.” Translation from Walter S. Gibson, Pleasant Places: The Rustic Landscape from Bruegel to Ruisdael (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 2000), p. 2, quoted by Manfred Sellink in Nadine M. Orenstein, Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Drawings and Prints (Rotterdam: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen; New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001), under cat. 144, p. 296.

3 Gibson, pp. 1–13 and 27–49.

4 First proposed by Konrad Oberhuber in Die Kunst der Graphik IV. Zwischen Renaissance und Barock: Das Zeitalter von Bruegel und Bellange (Vienna: Graphische Sammlung Albertina, 1967), cats. 27–32, pp. 43–45. Nalis (see n. 1) catalogues the prints as the work of the Van Doetecum brothers.

5 On the attributions proposed for the Small Landscapes drawings, see Hans Mielke in Pieter Bruegel d. Ä. als Zeichner (Berlin: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, 1975), cats. 184–95, pp. 139–44, Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, “Joos van Liere,” in Otto von Simson and Matthias Winner, eds., Pieter Bruegel und seine Welt (Berlin, 1979), pp. 17–27, Hans Mielke, Pieter Bruegel: Die Zeichnungen (Turnhout, Netherlands, 1996), pp. 85–88, Manfred Sellink in Orenstein, pp. 296–99.

6 Haverkamp-Begemann, p. 18, and cats. 1–11, pp. 25–26. A drawing in the Woodner Collection, which came to light at a sale in Amsterdam at Sotheby Mak van Waay, 15 November 1983, lot 249, should be added to Haverkamp-Begemann’s list. It is the model for Hollstein, vol. 38, no. 150, p. 85. Konrad Oberhuber in Veronika Birke and Konrad Oberhuber, Meisterzeichnungen aus sechs Jahrhunderten: Die Sammlung Ian Woodner (Vienna: Albertina Museum; Munich: Haus der Kunst, 1986), cat. 69, pp. 160–61; Henk Nalis, part 1, under cat. 150.

7 Mielke (1975, pp. 139–40 and under cats. 184–94, pp. 140–44) was the first to comment extensively on the two states of many of the drawings. See also Haverkamp-Begemann, p. 18, and cats. 1–19, pp. 25–27, and Reinhard Liess, “Die kleinen Landschaften Pieter Bruegels d. Ä. im Lichte seines Gesamtwerks, Part 1,” Kunsthistorisches Jahrbuch Graz, vols 15–16 (1979–80): 1–116, p. 12.

8 Haverkamp-Begemann, p. 18, and cats. 12–19, pp. 26–27.

9 Ibid., cats. 12–15, p. 26.

10 Liess, pp. 12–15. Liess attributed one group (his Group A) to Pieter Bruegel the Elder and another group (his Group B) to Cornelis Cort. Neither attribution is convincing, but his observation that two different draftsmen produced the first states of the models for the prints was an important step.

11 Mielke (1975), pp. 139–40 and under cats. 184–94, pp. 140–44; Haverkamp-Begemann, p. 18, and cats. 1–19, pp. 25–27. Mielke (1975, cats. 192 and 194, pp. 143–44), and following him, Haverkamp-Begemann (cats. 12 and 14, p. 26), both ascribe the added staffage in two cases to the draftsman responsible for the rest of the drawing.

12 Ger Luijten in Wouter Theodor Kloek and Bert W. Meijer, eds., Bruegel, Rubens et leurs contemporains: Dessins nordiques du Musée des Offices à Florence (Paris: Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt; Florence: Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, 2008), cat. 15, pp. 28–30, with earlier literature.

13 Reinhard Liess, “Die Kleinen Landschaften Pieter Bruegels d. Ä. im Lichte seines Gesamtwerk,” Kunsthistorisches Jahrbuch Graz, vol. 18, no. 3 (1982), pp. 159–60, and Reinhard Liess, Jan Vermeer van Delft, Pieter Bruegel d. Ä., Rogier van der Weyden: Drei Studien zur niederländischen Kunst (Göttingen, 2004), p. 65. Liess acknowledged that Konrad Oberhuber and Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann accepted the Harvard drawing as the original, but he argued that the draftsmanship was copylike, and the handling of the Uffizi version was superior. In my view, the execution of the Harvard drawing is more characteristic of the Small Landscapes. Manfred Sellink in Orenstein, cat. 135, accepts the Harvard drawing as by the Master of the Small Landscapes, as does Ger Luijten in Kloek and Meijer, cat. 15, pp. 28–30.

14 That the inks behave differently when examined with varying wavelengths of infrared (IR) light reveals that the drawing was done with two distinct inks. In this case, the ink in the upper portion of the drawing disappears relatively quickly when we move through the IR spectrum, and that of the lower portion remains visible longer.

15 I have not examined the Uffizi drawing, but both Haverkamp-Begemann (cat. 17, p. 26) and Liess (1979–80, cat. C2, pp. 12 and 15–16, and 1982, p. 160) recorded that it was executed entirely in the same ink.

16 Liess (1979–80), cats. A1 (numbered 62) and A2 (numbered 53[?]), p. 13, and cats. B1 (numbered 20 or 24), and B2 (numbered 10), p. 14.

17 Although the acquisition date of the Chatsworth drawings—Liess’s nos. A2 and B1 (see n. 16)—is undocumented, they were probably acquired by the Second Duke of Devonshire (1665–1729) and have since remained at Chatsworth.

18 Orenstein, cats. 138 and 139, pp. 291–92.

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, The Kate, Maurice R. and Melvin R. Seiden Special Purchase Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.
Publication History

Reinhard Liess, "Die Kleinen Landschaften Pieter Bruegels D.A. im Lichte seines Gesamtwerk", Kunsthistorisches Jahrbuch Graz, Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (Graz, Austria, 1982), vol. XVIII, no. 3, pp. 159-160, repr. fig. 217

John Oliver Hand, J. R. Judson, and William W. Robinson, The Age of Bruegel: Netherlandish Drawings in the Sixteenth Century, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art/Cambridge University Press (Washington, D.C. and Cambridge, England, 1986), under cat. no. 87, p. 230 (n. 6)

Karel G. Boon, The Netherlandish and German Drawings of the XVth and XVIth Centuries of the Frits Lugt Collection (Paris, France, 1992), p. 91 (n. 13)

Nadine Orenstein and Manfred Sellink, Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Drawings and Prints, exh. cat., ed. Nadine Orenstein, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT and London, England, 2001), cat. no. 135, pp. 289, 297 and 299 (n. 5) and 24, 33, and 39 (n. 108), under cat. no. 32, p. 132, under cat. no. 124, p. 274, repr. p. 289

Reinhard Liess, Jan Vermeer van Delft, Pieter Bruegel d. Ä., Rogier van der Weyden. Drei Studien zur niederländischen Kunst., V&R Unipress (Göttingen, 2004), pp. 65, 77, and 79

W. Th. Kloek and Bert W. Meijer, ed., Bruegel, Rubens et leurs contemporains. Dessins nordiques du Musée des Offices à Florence, exh. cat., Fondation Custodia (Paris, 2008), under cat. no. 15, pp. 28-30

William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson, Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016), p. 18; cat. no. 57, pp. 198-200, repr. p. 199 and p. 198 as fig. 1 (IR image)

Franklin Einspruch, Fuse Visual Art Review: A Pair of Drawing Shows at the Harvard Art Museums, The Arts Fuse ([e-journal], June 9, 2016),, accessed June 9, 2016

Exhibition History

Northern Renaissance Art: Selected Works, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 02/28/1984 - 04/08/1984

Prints and Drawings from the Time of Holbein and Breugel, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 11/21/1985 - 01/12/1986

Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Drawings and Prints, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 05/24/2001 - 08/05/2001; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 09/25/2001 - 12/02/2001

Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2016 - 08/14/2016

Subjects and Contexts

Dutch, Flemish, & Netherlandish Drawings

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at