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“The Harvesters” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (MET)

Pieter Bruegel the Elder- The Harvesters - Google Art Project

“The Harvesters” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

“The Harvesters” by Pieter Bruegel, the Elder depicts the harvest time which most commonly occurred within August and September. This painting is one in a series of six works that represent different times of the year. As in many of Bruegel’s paintings, the focus is on peasants and their work. Some of the peasants are shown eating while others are harvesting wheat. This was done to illustrate both the production and consumption of food. The painting shows the activities representative of the 16th-century Belgian rural life during the harvest period. Numerous details have been carefully added to create a sense of distance; these include the workers carrying wheat through the clearing and the ships far away.

Pieter Bruegel (also Brueghel) the Elder was the most significant artist of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting, a painter known for his landscapes and peasant scenes. He influenced the Dutch Golden Age painting with his innovative choices of subject matter, as 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 famous paintings come from the decade before his early death, when he was in his early forties, and at the height of his 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).


  • What can we see in this view of 16th-century rural life?
  • Pieter Bruegel the Elder was one of the first generations of artists to grow up when religious subjects had ceased to be the dominant subject. What did he focus on instead?

Explore European Paintings in the MET

The Great Tower of Babel

  • Title:                The Harvesters
  • Artist:             Pieter Bruegel the Elder
  • Year:                1565
  • Medium:        Oil on wood
  • Dimensions: Height: 119 cm (46.8 in); Width: 162 cm (63.7 in)
  • Museum:      Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Pieter Bruegel the Elder

  • Name:          Pieter Bruegel the Elder
  • Birth:           c. 1525-1530 – Breda, Duchy of Brabant, Habsburg Netherlands
  • Died:            1569 (aged 39 – 44) – Brussels, Duchy of Brabant, Habsburg Netherlands
  • Movement: Dutch and Flemish Renaissance


“That is why it was called Babel,
because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world.
From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”

– Bible


Photo Credits: 1) Pieter Brueghel the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons