Bruegel the Elder, Pieter

(c. 1525-1569)
   Bruegel is thought to have been born in the town of Bruegel near Breda, now Holland, from which he received his name. He studied with Pieter Coecke, whose daughter he married. When Coecke died in 1550, Bruegel moved to Antwerp where he worked in the engraving shop of Hieronymus Cock. There he entered the painter's guild in 1551 and, in c. 1552, he went to Italy where he may have worked for Giulio Clovio, also the patron of El Greco, as suggested by the fact that Clovio owned some of his paintings (now lost). In c. 1553, Bruegel returned to Antwerp where he remained for a decade. He then moved to Brussels where he spent the rest of his life.
   Bruegel is among the first artists to create pure genre scenes that are devoid of religious undertones, and the first to unite landscape to genre. His Netherlandish Proverbs (1559; Berlin, Gemäldegalerie) shows a man banging his head against the wall to suggest futility. The pies on the roof in the foreground refer to the popular catchphrase "There'll be pie in the sky when you die," the man with a globe on his thumb implies his having the world on the palm of his hand, while the inverted globe on the left refers to the upside-down, disordered world. Bruegel used the same all-inclusive approach in his Children's Games (1560; Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum) where every imaginable game is included, among them leapfrog and hoops. Some of Bruegel's works are related to Hieronymus Bosch's in that they too present scenes that speak of man's folly. Examples of this include his Dulle Griet Mad Meg; 1562; [Antwerp, Musée Mayer van den Bergh] and the Tower of Babel (1563; Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum). The first shows, again, a multitude of figures, now in a hellish setting. The figure in the center is Mad Meg, a witch who pillages hell. The meaning of the work is not completely understood, though it has been suggested that she may represent Avarice, one of the Seven Deadly Sins, or Madness. The Tower of Babel shows building trades and other activities, again referring to futile effort and human ambition overriding capability.
   By the mid to late 1660s, Bruegel abandoned the encyclopedic representations of activities and overpopulated fantastic landscapes in favor of monumentalized peasants engaging in everyday chores and celebrations. Examples of this are the Wedding Dance (1566; Detroit Institute of Art) and Wedding Feast (c. 1566-1567; Vienna, Kunst-historisches Museum). These types of compositions often stress the comical aspect of the individuals depicted, or the vulgar. Bruegel stands out from among his contemporaries in that his works capture the absurdity of human nature in a way that can be truly categorized as charming and full of humor.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Bruegel, Pieter, the Elder — born с 1525, probably Breda, duchy of Brabant died Sept. 5/9, 1569, Brussels Greatest Netherlandish painter of the 16th century. Not much is known of his early life, but in 1551 he set off for Italy, where he produced his earliest signed painting …   Universalium

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  • Breughel the Elder — noun Flemish painter of landscapes (1525 1569) • Syn: ↑Brueghel, ↑Breughel, ↑Bruegel, ↑Pieter Brueghel, ↑Pieter Breughel, ↑Pieter Bruegel, ↑Pieter Brueghel the Elder • …   Useful english dictionary

  • Brueghel, Jan, the Elder — born с 1525, probably Breda, duchy of Brabant died Sept. 5/9, 1569, Brussels Flemish painter and draftsman, second son of Pieter Bruegel. Early in his career he went to Italy, where he painted under the patronage of Cardinal Federigo Borromeo.… …   Universalium

  • Pieter Bruegel — Der Maler und sein Kritiker (Feder und Tusche, 1565 68)[1] Vermutliches Selbstporträt Pieter Brueghel der Ältere [ˈbɾøːɣəl] (* um 1525/30 in Breda; † 5. September 1569 in Br …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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