PARIS - Despite the centuries that separate them, we find many similarities between the painting of the Brueghels and comic strips, both rooted in Flemish tradition. This painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, entitled The Visit to a Farm, evinces several – the broad scene with several characters busy about their daily tasks, the realism of the drawing, and the sense of narrative and anecdote.
The viewer is drawn into the home of this wet nurse with her dress half open, cradling one of her little protégés in the crook of her arm. This welter of detail is extraordinarily reminiscent of some of Uderzo's compositions depicting the lives of the intrepid Gauls, whose colourful nature, love of feasting and relish of the good things in life evoke the Brueghels' peasants. In one celebrated plate, the creator of Astérix even copies a painting by Breughel the Elder feature for feature: The Peasant Wedding of 1568.
PIETER BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGER, THE VISIT TO THE FARM, SIGNED AND DATED LOWER LEFT P. BREVGHEL / 1622, OIL ON PANEL. ESTIMATE €300,000 — 400,000 ($320,439 - 427,252).
Other great names of the comic illustration drew from this considerable output, such as Willy Vandersteen, whom Hergé nicknamed the "Brueghel of the comic strip,” François Schuiten, whose Tower was based on a certain "Tower of Babel," and Régis Loisel, author of the "Magasin général,” where we find the profusion of details and figures so typical of Flemish artists. In the light of these comic strips, now an inseparable part of our cultural heritage, the painting of the Brueghels appears in all its modernity. Inevitably, the strip cartoon specialist in me sees this Visit to a Farm as not only a fragment of faithfully-captured life, but also a vignette in a story, making me long to know what happens next.
Old Master and 19th Century Paintings, Sculptures and Drawings will take place at Sotheby's France on Wednesday 17 June at 2:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Bernard Mahé is a comic strip specialist at the Galerie 9e Art.