de jonckheere old masters

Abel Grimmer

The Visit to the Farm

Panel: 52,4 x 67 cm
Dated 1608


A popular theme, illustrated repeatedly by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Pieter Brueghel the Younger, the Visit to the Farm or the Visit to the Nurse quite likely comes from a model, since lost, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. In fact, a number of versions of this painting have been identified: painted in colour or in grisaille. There are several surviving models by Pieter Bruegel the Elder in grisaille, which were reproduced by his two sons. As neither invented any subjects in this vein, it is unlikely that the two sons would have copied each other. Historians therefore agree that this theme, highly popular in its day, can be attributed to Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

In this version by Abel Grimmer, the composition immerses us in an intimate scene of a somewhat chaotic peasant household. A pair of patricians or members of the bourgeoisie are shown here visiting their child who has been entrusted to the care of a peasant nurse, as was the custom at the time. The arrangement of the scene is picturesque but the painter's approach also appears to suggest another motif: the reconciliation of social classes. In fact, the gentleman appears to offer the father of the family some type of cake, whilst the mother opens her purse to give a coin to a barefoot young child before her. In the centre of the room, a kettle full of turnips and onions simmers, supported over the fire which is even with the floor. The nurse is preparing to swaddle a child, whose place in the cradle has been taken by the family dog. On the left, a man scours a saucepan. In the background, a seated pleasant drinks a glass of milk while two others churn butter.

As in the versions by Brueghel the Younger, the coldness of the mother's pose raises questions as to the exact nature of the subject: could it in fact be a simple visit of courtesy or patronage? Unlike in the brueghelian model followed here by Abel Grimmer, a different artist addresses this theme with greater liberty: Martin van Cleve injects it with greater emotion, with the gentleman kneeling beside the child in the arms of the nurse.

Provenance :
Private collection