Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, “The Wedding Dance”, 1566, Oil on Wood Panel, Detroit Institute of Arts

Pieter Bruegel was the significant artist of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting, a printmaker form Brabant, and know for his landscapes and peasant scenes. He was a formative influence on Dutch Golden Age painting and one of the first generation of artists to grow up when religious subjects ceased to be the natural subject matter of painting. He only lived until his mid-40′s with all of his famous paintings coming within his last decade when he concentrated only on painting.

The Wedding Dance is a splendid example of Bruegel’s fascination with the peasant life of his native land. Public and private holidays and festivals provided him with typical situations and characters for his paintings. Here the wedding guests are very simply modeled, the positions of their arms and legs somewhat exaggerated to make the dancers look more awkward and more rustic.

Although a modern audience might see this panel primarily as a genre painting, Bruegel’s contemporaries would have noted its moralizing overtones: frenzied dance and lustful behavior could lead to sin and damnation.

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