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“The Wedding Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

"The Wedding Dance" by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

“The Wedding Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

“The Wedding Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, depicts wedding guests at a village wedding at the time of the Renaissance. As was customary at that time, the bride is wearing black, and men are wearing prominent codpieces.

Dancing was disapproved of by the authorities and the church, so this painting can be seen as either an entertaining depiction of the overindulgent peasant enjoying an opportunity to celebrate and indulge or as a moralizing tale.

The wedding guests wearing clothing from the times, presented in an outdoor party surrounded by trees. In the middle of the composition is the bride with a black dress and red hair dancing with her father’s older man. 

In the background, to the right, is hanging a tablecloth decorated with a crown, and beneath it is the bride’s table. The pipers are playing the bagpipes in the foreground to the right.

The peasant’s body language and behaviors are shown as a caricature of rustic and joyful ritual symbolic of fertility and reproduction.

The painting reflects a degree of ambiguity. It can both be seen as a commentary on the revelers’ oversexed behavior or as an entertaining and comical composition.

In the sixteenth century, dance was subject to a strict code and regarded by the authorities and church as a social evil. In polite society, people could not swing their arms or legs or laugh too loudly.

The painting expresses the rural liberation from the stricter limits on the urban classes and the times’ expected social standards. Their arms and legs positions are exaggerated to make the dancers look more awkward and more rustic.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder completed The Wedding Dance in 1566 and it is a masterpiece example of Bruegel’s fascination with his native land’s peasant life.

Bruegel’s contemporaries would have noted its moralizing overtones. Frenzied dancing and lustful behaviors could lead to sin.

This painting was believed to have been lost for many years until rediscovered at a London sale in 1930.

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 generation 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 Wedding Dance

  • Title:                      The Wedding Dance
  • Also:                      The Dance Village
  • Artist:                     Pieter Bruegel the Elder
  • Year:                      1566
  • Medium:                Oil on panel
  • Dimensions:          Height: 119.4 cm (47 in); Width: 157.5 cm (62 in)
  • Museum:               Detroit Institute of Arts

Pieter Brueghel

“The Wedding Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

“The Wedding Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Virtual Tour of the Museums in Detroit

“The Wedding Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

“The Wedding Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Highlights of the Detroit Institute of Arts

“The Wedding Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

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“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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