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Title The Peasants' Dance
Collection Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum
Artist Attributed to school of Brueghel, Pieter, the younger (Flemish artist, born 1564 or 1565, died 1637 or 1638)
Date Earliest possibly about 1615
Date Latest possibly about 1675
Description This rather naive work appears to be by an as yet unidentified follower of Pieter Brueghel the Younger. It is not a copy of a known work by Brueghel, but the inn with the tall tree in front is somewhat reminiscent of Brueghel's painting The Inn ‘St Michael' (after 1616), of which several copies exist. The subject of peasants dancing and drinking was obviously a typical Brueghelian theme, here set in an imaginary landscape in the same style. The perspective is somewhat erratic: the houses on the far left appear far more distant than the buildings on the right of the inn.
Current Accession Number LEAMG:A378.1953
Subject townscape; landscape; figure; animal (bird)
Measurements 29.7 x 43.7 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on panel
Acquisition Details Bequeathed by Captain Mark Field 1953.
Provenance Probably sold by G. Mihau to Mark Field, probably in the 1940s.
Publications Ertz, K., Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere (1564-1637/38). Die Gemälde mit kritischem, uvrekatalog, 2 vols, Lingen, 1988-2000; Ertz, K., Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere - Jan Brueghel der Ältere. Flämische Malerei um 1600. Tradition und Fortschritt, exh. cat., Lingen, 1997.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger was the eldest son of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (about 1525-1569) and his wife Mayken Coecke, daughter of his teacher Pieter Coecke van Aelst (1502-1550) and the miniaturist Maria Verhulst. The couple were married in Brussels in 1563 and their son Pieter was probably born there in 1564, followed by a second son Jan (1568-1625). Although they had lost their father quite young, the brothers clearly grew up in an artistic environment and took up painting as their profession. Pieter probably trained as a painter in the workshop of the landscapist Gillis van Coninxloo (1544-1607) and entered the Antwerp painters' guild of St Luke in 1585. Yet whereas Jan specialised in landscapes, still-lifes and flower painting, Pieter adopted his dead father's style and subject matter. In fact, he mainly copied or adapted many of his father's works, although he also painted some scenes of hellish conflagrations, earning him the soubriquet 'Helse Brueghel' (Hellish Brueghel; his father and brother were known as 'Peasant Bruegel' and 'Velvet Brueghel', respectively). Amongst his pupils were his son Pieter Brueghel III (1589-about 1640) and the Flemish still-life painter Frans Snyders (1579-1657), while his work also influenced that of David Teniers the Younger and other painters. Pieter Brueghel the Younger died in Antwerp in 1638.

The inn is the centre of some merry-making by peasants. The building itself is recognizable as an inn by its display of shields and pots on its gable, its thatched roof and by the wreaths hanging from the upper windows in its façade and from the tree in the centre - a feature that one finds in other depictions of inns in the works of Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Some figures can be observed inside the building through the doorway and one of the side windows. A group of peasants are seated in front of the building, while a man in red hose is standing in a corner near the side wall with his back towards the viewer; he may be urinating, which was a very typical joke in this type of painting. Two musicians, including a bagpipe player, are seen on the far left. A woman on the right of the central tree appears to be struggling to bring home her drunken husband, who raises his staff against another couple on their way to the inn. Characteristic of this artist's style are the puffy cheeks on the faces of the human figures, and the rotund, almost balloon-like limbs, torsos and buttocks on some of them. The peasants' clothes are nearly all bright in colour, especially red.

The painting appears to be an authentic work of the sixteenth century, although the upper part of the painting (i.e. the sky and foliage) has been largely overpainted, which affects the overall appearance of the work.

Rights Owner Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum (Warwick District Council)
Author Sophie Oosterwijk



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