This pair of panels is part of a medieval iconographic tradition stemming from classical thought that associated the nature of each individual with the planet ruling his or her astrological sign. This theory, drawing its sources from astrology and the medical sciences, was revived in the 13th century following its dissemination in Arabic texts. Considered to be the coldest planet, the slowest and the furthest from the Earth, Saturn is thus associated with laziness, inactivity, illness and old age.
This iconographic theme had an important resonance in the work of Jörg Breu the Elder (ca. 1475-1537), whose workshop specialized in the composition of circular cartoons for the production of decorative stained glass. The Museum der Bildenden Künste in Leipzig holds a preparatory drawing for the Children of the Sun (inv. no. NI 4766 (10*)), while the Grossherzörgliches Museum in Weimar holds one for The Moon and Her Children (inv. no. KK 93).
No preparatory drawing for the Children of Saturn is known, but there is a stained glass window in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow (inv. no. 45/494). The differences between our panel and the stained glass window - the location of the farmhouse, the attitude of the woodcutter, the space between the oxen in the background and the three central figures - are numerous and do not support a common preparatory drawing. No drawings or stained glass windows by the Swabian master are known for the second panel, which is said to depict the Children of Jupiter, an iconographic theme proposed by Andrew Morrall (A. Morrall, op. cit., pp. 212-214).
Kunsthandlung Gustav Nebehay, Vienna, 1927.
Anonymous sale, Hugo Helbing, Munich, November 24-25, 1933, lot 359 (as 'Breu, Jörg'); hence probably acquired by Max Uhlfelder (1884-1958).
Confiscated by the Gestapo, November 24, 1938; passed under the administration of the Oberfinanzpräsidium in Munich and transported to Beuerberg 1942; transferred to the Central Collecting Point in Munich (Munich no. 36140 and no. 36141), July 23, 1946; then returned to Max Uhlfelder, June 10, 1949.
Anonymous sale, Stuttgarter Kunstauktionshaus, Stuttgart, 21-22 June 1996, lot 1361 (as 'Breu, Jörg d.Ä.').
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, London, 29 October 1998, lot 21 (as 'attributed to Jörg Breu the Elder').
Private collection, France.
M. J. Friëdlander, Kunsthandlung Gustav Nebehay gallery catalog, Die Zeichnung, 1927, 2, no. 49 and no. 50 (as 'Joerg Breu'), reproduced in black and white.
E. Buchner, 'Der Ältere Breu als Maler', in Beiträger zur Geschichte der Deutschen Künst. Augsburger Kunst der Spätgotik und Renaissance, Augsburg, 1928, 2, p. 372 (as 'Jörg Breu').
A. Morrall, 'Saturn's Children: A Glass Panel by Jörg Breu the Elder in the Burrell Collection', The Burlington Magazine, March 1993, 135, 1080, pp. 213-214 (as 'after Jörg Breu'), reproduced in black and white p. 214, figs. 56 and 58.
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29 000 €
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