Adrien de Montigny
The Village & Château d'Agimont
Gouache on vellum
513 × 381 mm. (20 ⅓ × 15 in.)
Provenance:Marie de Brimeau (c.1550-1605) & Charles III de Croÿ (1560-1612);
By descent to the Duc's nephew and heir, Alexandre d'Arenberg;
Thence by descent in the family to Ludmilla d'Arenberg, wife of Charles Alfred de Croÿ-Dülmen;
Thence through the Croÿ-Dülmen family;
By whom sold, Sotheby's, London,19.06.2001, Lot 47 (part of lot);
Where purchased by W. Graham Arader III, Pennsylvania, by whom dispersed;
Private Collection, Connecticut
Further information:This magnificent, technicolour sheet is taken from the Albums de Croÿ, painted for Charles de Croÿ (1560-1612) between 1596 to 1610. Charles held numerous titles and estates throughout modern-day France and Belgium - including the Duchy of Aarschot, the Principality of Porcien, the Earldoms of Beaumont and Seninghen and the Lordship of Avesnes, Lillers, Quiévrain, Esclaibes and Beveren - the administration of which required a highly organised bureaucracy. In order to understand his properties, in 1590 the Duc ordered illustrated land surveys (cadastres), with coloured plans and perspective views in which the various individual properties were numbered, to correspond with lists of rents drawn up by Charles' treasurer and secretary.
An avid collector of art, Charles conceived the idea of synthesising these earlier drawings together with a newly commissioned series, beginning in 1596, with these documents comprising two spectacular albums of painting on vellum, containing the images from the cadastres, with added decorative cartouches indicating each sheet's subject.Although 23 volumes were painted in all, comprising a total of 2,500 views, the present sheet comes from one of the first two albums produced, covering the lands in Brabant, Flanders, Artois, and Picardy. Originally, this album contained 86 leaves, with 118 full-page miniatures with decorative borders. The present sheet is of particular interest for historians of both the album and the period: the Chateau d'Agimont, of which our painting is the earliest known illustration, belonged to Marie de Brimeau, who married the Duc de Croÿ, with her estates provided as her dowry. This view is therefore one of just a small number within the albums to depict a property of the Duc's wife. Still complete when sold at Sotheby's in London in 2001, the albums were subsequently split up. The individual sheets continue, however, to be of extraordinary importance for the architectural history, the topography, and the social history of northern France and Belgium during the final years of the struggle against Philip II of Spain.
The artist behind this ambitious and demanding series of works has been identified as Adrien de Montigny, a Valencois artist who is thought to have been the Duc's court artist. De Montigny's name often appears at the head of the albums and in a number of the cartouches on the individual folios. The Albums are his only known work, with the exception of a similar but separate depiction of the Chateau de Heverlee, also for Charles de Croÿ. De Montigny travelled throughout his patron's estates during the more clement months of Spring and Summer, then working up his studies into the elegant, finished sheets which remain today. The earlier, purely administrative drawings which de Montigny was able to draw partly from were by Pierre de Bersacques, a surveyor who specialised in topographical drawings, often heightened with colour washes.
De Montigny's numerous additions of staffage and decorative scenery call to mind the rich illuminated manuscripts of an earlier age, largely produced by monastic workshops, and it is possible that the Duc de Croÿ envisaged his albums' being regarded as much the same as those earlier texts: important historical records, made to stand the test of time as much as to showcase the most accomplished artistic decoration available to their patron. In both regards the albums were an astonishing success, and both their condition and very existence are one of the marvels of this area in the broader history of Western art.
 Albums de Croy, sous la direction de J-M Duvosquel, Brussel (1988-1996), 26 Volumes
 Sotheby's catalogue for the 2001 sale: The Album de Croy, the Property of a European Noble Family: Lot 47 in the Sale of Western Manuscripts and Miniatures (Sale L01323), Sotheby's, 34-35 New Bond Street, Tuesday 19 June 2001