Copy of this in Stuttgart, Württembergische Staatsgalerie, 1931 cat. #590 (copper, 46 x 67). The Stuttgart series is a direct copy after the Borromeo series but made when that group was complete and together, ie., when it was at the Ambrosiana between 1618 and Napolean. Set of copies also sold Christies, London, 20 or 26.vi.70 #50 (copper, 47 x 66). Only 2 are illustrated on page at RKD but they are clearly after this series.
There is a drawing formerly in the collection Van Regteren Altena in Amstedam that is related to this; published by Winner 1972, p. 142, fig. 21. It must represent an early idea for the picture but there have been many changes.
By the time he sent this Allegry of Water to Borromeo, Brueghel had been producing this kind of allegory for more than a decade. There are two allegories of water in particular that precede this, one in the Lyons series and one that was sold Sotheby's London 18.vii.99 #53. This one differs significantly from the others in that instead of a little nymph he shows a grizzled old man. Probably this was to satisfy Borromeo's feelings against nudes in paintings.
The Milan"Allegory of Water" is part of a series of the elements which Jan Brueghel painted between 1608-1621. See Also:
Letter to Borromeo, 27 august 1609. “et con il tempo comencira l altri dui Aqua et terra” (Crivelli, pg. 147).
Letter to Borromeo, 11 March 1611. “Io sta d’giorni aspettande otto giorni bel tempe per retocare le trre quadretti Aqua Terra et Aria” (Crivelli, pg. 162).
Letter to Borromeo, 19 April 1613. “di comandarmi un altro quadro per su servizio cioe l Elemento del aqua o del aria per accompagnare colli altri che VS lll.ma ha di mia mano” (Crivelli, pg. 204).
Letter to Borromeo, 24 December 1614. “quando del Elemento dell’acqua, I condussi l’opra a quella perfettione che l poco ingegno I debol mano perimisero” (Crivelli, pg. 220).
Letter to Borromeo, 13 March 1616. “VS circa la tardanza della mia sodisfattione per il qudro de pesci sono souercie, poich’io ne resto contentissimo, et sempre mai saro pronto per server S.S. lll.ma” (Crivelli, pg. 223).