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Pieter Brueghel the Younger

The wedding dance outside

Panel: 43,9 x 59,1 cm
1614
Signed and dated bottom left: P.BRVEGHEL 1614

introduction

A true masterpiece by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, this wedding dance is one of the great artist’s most popular subjects. Particularly delicate and balanced, and in a remarkable state of preservation, this version belongs to the series of paintings that provide a mirror image of elements taken from the famous Wedding dance inside, engraved in 1588 by Pieter Van der Heyden, after an original by Pieter Brueghel the Elder that was lost. Signed and dated 1614, our painting features among the first and the best versions of the theme: furthermore, it is certified as having been painted by Pieter Brueghel the Younger owing to the presence of an underlying drawing. This well-known practice is present in all the versions painted by the artist and the dimensions are naturally identical.

Besides the subtle variations that differentiate each of the different versions, all the panels by Pieter Brueghel the Younger are characterised by the insertion of characters, observed in his father’s model, into a magnificent rural landscape. Besides the change in background, Brueghel the Younger leaves out the mound of wedding gifts visible in the background of Van der Heyden’s engraving, reduces the number of characters round the sides, considerably thins out the foreground and expands the landscape, which he embellishes with numerous details.

The effect of the twisted foliage in the tree-filled landscape also allows him to create a set of diagonals that invite the viewer to take part in the wedding guests’ boisterous farandole in the foreground. The rather unbridled joy and excitement of the latter are in some way relayed and even emphasised by the twisted tree trunks, which are particularly expressive in our version.

Behind this group of people drinking, dancing, touching and kissing quite freely, stands the wedding table: here presides the heroine of the day, leaning against a cloth elegantly arranged as a dais, and duly wearing her wedding crown. Her formal attitude expresses a certain indifference towards the indiscreet and somewhat envious curiosity of the crowd of guests pressing at her sides, contemplating the plate of wedding gifts in the coin of the realm. There is no obvious trace of the groom, and we may well wonder if he isn’t already among the tipsy, hopping dancers…

Provenance :
Collection Laurent Meeus (1872-1950) until 1950;
Private collection.

Littérature :
Georges Marlier, Pierre Brueghel le Jeune, Ed. Robert Finck, Brussels, 1969, p. 186-204;
K. Ertz, Pieter Brueghel der Jungere (1564-1637/38). Die Gemälde. Mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Lingen 2000, vol.2, p.684-96, 722-736, no. E916-944.