Royal Art: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, a secret critic

Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525/1530 - 9 September 1569) was one of the
most prominent artists of the Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting,
well known for his landscapes and his peasant scenes.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Census at Bethlehem (1566)
own picture taken in 2016

Personal life

In 1551, Bruegel became a free master in the Guild of Saint Luke in Antwerp.
Later he traveled to France and Italy. The painter visited Rome and he had
probably reached Sicily.

In 1554/1555, Bruegel returned to Antwerp, then it was the publishing center
of Northern Europe. There he made over 40 prints for Hieronymus Cock, an
important print publisher.

In 1563, Bruegel was married in Brussels to Mayken Coecke, a daughter of
the painters Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Mayken Verhulst.

Bruegel and his wife had at least 3 children inter alia:
Pieter Bruegel the Younger and Jan Bruegel the Elder.

Pieter I Bruegel - The Fall of Icarus (around 1560's)
own picture taken in 2016

Royal History

At the time Bruegel was born, extensive changes took place in Western Europe.
Italy was at the end of their High Renaissance of arts and culture with artists as
Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

In 1517, Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation in neighboring
Germany. Reformation was accompanied by iconoclasm and a widespread
destruction of art.

Then the Low Countries were divided into Seventeen Provinces and some of
them wanted to separate from the Habsburg rule based in Spain.

The Habsburg monarchs of Spain attempted a policy of strict religious
uniformity for the Catholic Church within their domains and enforced it with
the Inquisition. This led to the outbreak of the Eighty Years' War, which ended
with the independence of the Dutch Republic.

Bruegel specialized himself in genre paintings populated by peasants with
a landscape element. His works are unique windows on a vanish folk culture.


The first painting in this blogpost: The Census at Bethlehem (1566), showed
a criticism to the Spanish overlords in the Netherlands.

The second painting is the Fall of Icarus (painted in the 1560's). These two
works are shown at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium.

However Bruegel 's works really are spread around the world. There are
paintings of him inter alia in:

- Timken Museum of Art, San Diego (USA);
- Gemäldegalerie, Berlin (Germany);
- Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (Austria);
- Alte Pinakothek in Munich (Germany);
- Museo del Prado, Madrid (Spain);
- The National Gallery, London (UK);
- Lobkowicz Palace in Prague (Czech Republic);
- Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, (USA);
- Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest (Hungary);
- Louvre in Paris (France)

and many more.

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