Hans Bock the Elder (Zabern 1540 - 1623 Basel), The Judgement of Brutus

Pen and black ink and gray wash, with touches of blue wash; signed and dated, center: HBock / 1581;, inscribed in cartouche with description of the subject;  a detail of some panelling, with a slight sketch of a seated roman and a fasces (verso). 247 by 313 mm - Estimate 20,000—25,000 USD

PROVENANCE: B. Jolles (L.381);
sale, Munich, Helbing, 28 October 1895, lot 66;
sale, Leipzig, C.G. Boerner, 9-10 May 1930;
with J. Halle, Munich, by 1933

LITERATURE AND REFERENCES: F. Thöne, 'Der Basler Monogrammist HB von 1575/7, Hans Bock oder Hans Brand?' in Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft, Jahresbericht 1965, Zürich 1966, p. 101, fig. 76

NOTE: The scene depicted is the execution of Titus and Tiberius, sons of Brutus, one of the first two Roman Consuls, whose regime replaced that of the Tarquins. His two sons conspired to reinstate the Tarquin rule and when their plot was discovered, they were condemned to death by their own father, seen here seated to the left of the composition watching the dreadful events with seemingly expressionless features. The subject achieved a certain popularity as an example of the dangers of disloyalty and the importance of impartial judgement.

For obvious reasons, such scenes of judgement were particularly popular in the context of town halls and other civic buildings. In 1608-9 Bock himself executed a series of paintings on the theme of Law and Legislation for the walls of the Basel Town Hall (fig.1). Although the earlier date that is inscribed on the present drawing means that it cannot have been made in connection with the same commission, the similarities of subject, composition and approach to space are none the less very striking.

Bock spent much of his working life in the region of Basel, where he received various civic and private commissions. See also lot 14.

Sotheby's. Old Master Drawings. 28 Jan 09. New York. photo courtesy Sotheby's. www.sothebys.com