- Museum number
Naval Battle in the Strait of Messina; several ships in the foreground with the burning of the city of Reggio in Calabria at upper left, the eruption of Mount Etna at right behind the city of Messina
Engraving, printed from two plates
- Production date
Height: 426 millimetres
Width: 706 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The quality of the impression suggests that this belongs to the first edition, published by Cornelis van Dalem in 1561: many impressions have his name and privilege pasted in letterpress in the lower margin. It was re-issued by Cock in the same year with different and additional inscriptions by Hieronymus Cock in 1561, and then by later publishers, Paul de la Houve in Paris in 1601, Harman Adolfsz. in Haarlem in c.1610, and finally by Claes Jansz. Visscher in 1632. There is a drawing in Rotterdam that reproduces, in reverse, the view of Reggio at upper left. It may be based on a drawing that Bruegel made while in Italy c.1552-1553. He may have in fact witnessed this naval combat in 1552, when a French-Turkish fleet was threatening various cities along the southern coast of Italy, and burnt Reggio in July 1552.
An anonymous drawing, possibly copied after one of Bruegel's sketches of Messina, was recently purchased by the Royal Library of Brussels; see Joris van Grieken, in J. van Grieken - G. Luijten - J. van der Stock, "Hieronymus Cock: The Renaissance in Print", exh.cat. Royal Library of Belgium in Brussels and Fondation Custodia in Paris, New Haven and London, 2013, cat.no.102 (the engraving is cat.102).
Literature: Nadine Orenstein (ed.), "Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Drawings and Prints", exh.cat. Metropolitan Museum in New York and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, New York, 2001, cat.no.85; Rhea Sylvia Blok, in J. van Grieken - G. Luijten - J. van der Stock, "Hieronymus Cock: The Renaissance in Print", exh.cat. Royal Library of Belgium in Brussels and Fondation Custodia in Paris, New Haven and London, 2013, cat.no.102.
From the catalogue text from Japan 2003-4:
Pieter Bruegel was celebrated in his own day for reawakening the style of Hieronymus Bosch, and for his study of nature. After an early trip to Italy in 1552-54 he returned to Antwerp and published influential sets of landscape prints, mostly based on views he had drawn in the Swiss Alps. That Bruegel also visited the south of Italy is documented by this enormous print, the largest of those made to his designs. Although it is an ideal, bird's-eye view it remains a reasonably accurate record, and it shares with all Bruegel's landscapes a sense of realism that was rarely paralleled in western art before the seventeenth century. When first published in 1561, an explanatory text was printed in the margin that drew attention to the main topographical features of the scene, including Mount Etna smoldering in the distance on the right.
The view is greatly enlivened by the naval action, which is inspired by contemporary engagements between Turkish and Italian fleets. Bruegel may himself have witnessed such a battle, and the kinds of ships involved are painstakingly portrayed, as they were also in a contemporary set of prints of sailing vessels that were published to his designs at the same time. Most of them were also engraved by Frans Huys, one of the leading Antwerp printmakers patronized by the local publisher Hieronymus Cock (who also published the print after Hieronymus Bosch.
The print was acquired by the British Museum only in 1978, to fill a gap in an otherwise almost complete collection of graphic works based on Bruegel's design. (MRK)
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2003 Oct-Dec, Tokyo, Metropolitan Art Museum, Treasures of BM
2004 Jan-Mar, Kobe, City Museum, Treasures of BM
2004 Apr-Jun, Fukuoka, City Museum, Treasures of BM
2004 Jun-Aug, Niigata, Prefectural Mus of Fine Arts, Treasures of BM
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number