(b. 1598/1600, Deventer, d. 1657, Amsterdam)
Ruins of the City Walls, near Porta S Paolo, Rome1625-27
Brush and wash drawing
Christ Church Picture Gallery, Oxford
Breenbergh was born in Deventer and there is reason to believe as a youth he was apprenticed in Amsterdam to Pieter Lastman, Jacob or Jan Pynas, or a member of their entourages. Lastman and the Pynas brothers had been in Italy where they responded to Elsheimer's evocative landscapes.
Breenbergh's production as a painter in Rome is still ill-defined; determining its character is complicated by the similarity of his paintings to Poelenburgh's and his readiness to assimilate aspects of the work of other artists. However, there is no question that he made a large number of fresh, carefully observed pen and wash drawings of the intense sunlight and transparent shadows of the Italian countryside and its buildings and ruins. These sketches, his most original creations, anticipate the luminous daylight drawings Claude made after his second arrival in Rome in 1627. Indeed, some are so dangerously near to the French landscapist's sketches that they have been mistaken for his work. The drawing of the Ruins of the City Walls, near Porta S Paolo, Rome has been catalogued as a Claude in spite of Breenbergh's perfectly genuine signature on the sheet.