Sunday 11 December 2011

Pieter Bruegel the Elder - Treasure in the Attic!

It is a rare day when a museum discovers a work by an old master, especially one of this quality and with a signature to boot. So the staff at the Prado museum Spain must have thought all their Christmas's had come at once when 'The Wine of St Martin's Day' emerged.

Not only does it appear to be authentic, it has also been revealed, after the extensive cleaning work that it has been through since its discovery, to be of high quality and although in areas the paint is flaky and the painting has lost some of its original lustre the details remain fairly clear. When it was discovered it was covered in layers of dirt, this partially explains its relegation to obscurity over the last centuries as it obscured both the intricacy of the work and of course the all important signature.

There are only approximately 40 works surviving by this artist which by no means makes him the rarest artist but neither does it make him the most prolific. Furthermore this is the largest scale canvas known by Bruegel and will no doubt add vastly to the interest and scholarship on this already engaging artist.

The painting is a truly interesting and high quality work with some charming details as we would expect from a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Here we see the rosy cheeked face of a peasant fighting to fill his pot with the new wine of the season this peasants festival which celebrated the new wine also coincided with St Martin's day, thus giving the work its title.

While here we see a figure suffering the effects of over-indulgence in the wine, while behind him two individuals appear to be fighting, suggesting at the various evils of drink.

Or this detail, where we see a pick pocket taking advantage of the chaotic scene.

The painting is set to go on display at the Prado tomorrow! I only help to be able to go and see it first hand one day in the not too distant future. Until then I will have to content myself with reading about it on the incredible website resource

However there are also some fantastic works by this intriguing artist in London.

For example the very different 'The Adoration of the Kings' in the National Gallery

Or the Escape into Egypt mentioned in a previous post. in the Courtauld Collection, where you could also see Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery

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