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“The Peasant Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

"The Peasant Dance" by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

“The Peasant Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

“The Peasant Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder depicts the country fair’s opening dance, which involved a traditional leaping dance initiated by pairs of couples that preceded the general dance.

The foreground pair rushes in to become one of the couples that initiate the general dance as the bagpipe player starts the music. The running and jumping steps of the village-square dance would be in contrast to the formal dances performed at court.

This oil on panel painting is not signed nor dated but was painted in 1567, at the same time as “The Peasant Wedding.” The paintings are the same size and are part of a series illustrating peasant life

As in “The Peasant Wedding” and “The Wedding Dance,”  Bruegel intended his paintings to have a moral message rather than simply being an entertaining portrayal of peasant life. Gluttony, lust, and promiscuity can all be identified in this picture. 

The man seated next to the bagpipe player wears a peacock feather in his hat, a symbol of vanity and pride. Bruegel’s view of peasants is not condescending but humorous. 

The peasants’ celebration takes place on a Saint’s day, but the dancers have turned their backs on the church as the image of the Virgin Mary hangs on the tree, and her banner hangs outside the house where the man is encouraging the woman to join the dance.

The tavern’s prominence makes it clear that the people are preoccupied with material rather than spiritual matters as a beggar on the far left approaches a table begging for alms.

This painting was looted by Napoleon Bonaparte and brought to Paris in 1808, being returned to Vienna in 1815.

"The Peasant Dance" by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525 – 1569) was the most significant Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting artist. He is a painter known for his landscapes and peasant scenes.

He significantly influenced the Dutch Golden Age painting with his innovative choices of the subject matter. He was one of the first generations of artists to grow up when religious subjects had ceased to be the dominant subject matter of painting.

All his most famous paintings come from the decade before his early death when he was in his early forties and at the height of his artistic powers.

He dropped the ‘h’ from his name and signed his paintings as Bruegel, and he is sometimes referred to as “Peasant Bruegel” to distinguish him from the many later painters in his family, including his son Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564-1638).

The Peasant Dance

  • Title:                    The Peasant Wedding
  • Artist:                   Pieter Bruegel, the Elder
  • Year:                    1567
  • Medium:              Oil on panel
  • Dimensions:        Height: 114 cm (44.8 in); Width: 164 cm (64.5 in)
  • Museum:             Kunsthistorisches Museum

Pieter Brueghel

 

“The Peasant Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

A Virtual Tour of the Kunsthistorisches Museum

“The Peasant Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

A Tour of European Museums

“The Peasant Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

“The Peasant Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

“The Peasant Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

~~~

“It is not length of life, but depth of life.” 
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

~~~


Photo Credit: Pieter Brueghel the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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