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Pieter Brueghel the Younger

The Wedding Procession

Panel: 75 x 120,7 cm
1627
Signed and dated 1627

introduction

Pieter Brueghel II adopted his father’s legacy to the point where it is sometimes impossible to tell his work apart from his father’s. The Wedding Procession was indeed inspired by a work by Pieter Bruegel I, now lost, but which was formerly thought to be the panel kept at the Musée Communal de la Ville de Bruxelles, before Klaus Ertz (cf. exhib. cat. Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere-Jan Brueghel der Ältere Flämische Malerei um 1600. Tradition und Fortschritt, Villa Hügel, Essen 1977, p. 122) re-attributed it to Jan ‘Velvet’ Brueghel.

One of the charms of this painting is the harmonious scansion of the figures following the bridal procession in the foreground: leaving the bride’s farm – where we can see the final preparations for the wedding banquet, with smoking cauldrons to prove it – the guests follow one another in two separate processions, one for the men and the other for the women. That of the men is led in a clumsy and stiff manner by the fiancé, preceded by a bagpipe player. Brueghel humorously emphasises the effect of timidity, suggested by his slender figure and hesitant step, by portraying him as though “stuck” between two tree trunks. The procession of women follows slightly behind, also led by a bagpipe player: the bride, whose opulent curves are barely hidden by the warm pelisse she is wrapped in, moves forward, flanked by two little pageboys, with a much more confident step than her future husband, but this is counterbalanced by the melancholy reserve on her face, the done thing in such circumstances.

We can hence imagine all sorts of reasons behind this marriage: a marriage of convenience, an arranged marriage, a marriage for money or a marriage for love.
Even the watchful and proud look of the bride’s father, turning towards his daughter, reveals this psychological characterisation of the figures that Brueghel the Younger always succeeds in integrating into his paintings.

Beyond the comedy of manners and the psychological introspection, the artist is also presenting with us an amusing and pleasant portrait of a class of well-off peasants in situ: the vast, open landscape echoes the peace of this lucky day, with the safety and opulence promised by the farms, the windmill in the centre and the stable on the left with its flock of sheep. Through this composition, the artist seems to want to prove that despite the political and religious tensions that existed in Spanish Flanders at the beginning of the 17th century, luxury, calm and sensual delights remained at the heart of daily life for the people of this country.

The painter makes the colours sing, especially the reds, but also the blues and the greens by applying them onto the very fine greys, beiges and bistres. Painted with a very light, vibrant touch and in lively tones, this prodigious work, with its fantastic colours, exudes an unequalled power and harmony, worthy of this great Flemish 17th century master.

Provenance :
Mr. A. and M. Carrier, Lyon, 1871 (according to a label on the back of the panel);
Sotheby’s, London, 11 July 1979, lot 108;
Sotheby’s, New York, 20 January 1983, lot 66;
Akram Ojjeh Collection;
Private Collection, Portugal.

Littérature :
P. Marlier, Pierre Breughel le Jeune, Brussels, 1969, p. 173, No. 4;
K. Ertz, Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere - Die Gemälde mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Luca Verlag, Lingen 1988/2000, Vol. II, p. 701, No. E820;
Diaz-Padron, 1980, S. 309.