Pieter Brueghel the Younger
- Pieter Brueghel the Younger
- The Outdoor Wedding Dance
- Oil on oak panel
- 41.6 by 62 cm.; 16 3/8 by 24 3/8 in.
Thence by descent.
Tokyo, Tobu Museum of Art, The World of Bruegel. The Coppée Collection and Eleven International Museums, 29 March – 25 June 1995, no. B25.
F. Van Hauwaert, 'La copie chez Pierre Brueghel le Jeune', in Revue des archéologues et historiens d'art de Louvain, s.l., 1978, pp. 87–99, reproduced fig. 4;
S. Leclercq et al., La Collection Coppée, Liège 1991, pp. 51–53, reproduced;
M. Wilmott, in the catalogue of the exhibition The World of Bruegel. The Coppée Collection and Eleven International Museums, Tokyo 1995, pp.100–01, no. B25, reproduced;
K. Ertz, Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere. 1564–1637/8. Die Gemälde mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Vol. II, Lingen 2000, pp. 684, 726, no. E935, reproduced;
C. Currie and D. Allart, The Brueg[H]el Phenomenon, Brussels 2012, Vol. II, pp. 341, 573– 613, 731, 812, 834–35, 854, 930–31, 995–99, 1001, 1010, 1118–19, figs 382, 388, 391, 392, 395, 398–402, 404–05, 413–14, 416, 526, 583, 586, 660.
Although no painting by him has come down to us, the composition of the Outdoor Wedding Dance clearly originated with the artist's father, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, for it is recorded by an engraving in reverse by Pieter van der Heyden which was published by Hieronymous Cock (fig. 1). Brueghel the Younger has removed some of the peripheral figures, and thus created a more open composition, with more light and landscape details. Most of the known autograph versions are painted in reverse of van der Heyden's engraving, and thus were most probably copied directly from a lost original, either a drawing or perhaps a painting.6 The claim that the painting of 1566 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder today in the Detroit Institute of Arts could be the lost prototype is probably excluded by the numerous differences in the composition, which is itself in the same sense as the print.7 As with many of the compositions painted by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, the design was most likely transferred by tracing, which serves to explain the proximity in size of all the panels on which the versions were painted. Evidence for the use of a tracing is provided here by the underdrawing, visible under infra-red reflectography (fig. 2). In the absence of a painted original, Pieter Brueghel the Younger would probably have worked from the detailed drawings his father had made in preparation for his paintings and for his engravers.
The Outdoor Wedding Dance is one of a group of pictures painted by the Brueghels which depict different episodes during a wedding day, a tradition founded by Pieter Breugel the Elder, whose Wedding Banquet of 1568 (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum) is undoubtedly the most famous example. Here the bride is shown seated at a table in the centre background of the picture, before a sheet strung between two trees and beneath a painted crown that honours her as 'Queen' for the day. She is intent on receiving gifts from her guests, while her family and friends avidly look on and a careful reckoning is made. Around her the other guests dance and talk, and in some cases, answer a call of nature. It is highly doubtful whether, as some writers have claimed, the Brueghels ever intended a serious moral undertone in works such as this, warning, for example, of the attendant perils of over-indulgence, lust or greed. Rather they should be regarded as epitomising that wry and sharply observed combination of naturalism and humour that has ensured that their popularity has remained undiminished from their own day to this.
1. According to Leclercq (see Literature 1991), a certificate of authenticity signed by J. Destrée and Jean Decoen, dated 5 December 1923, was recorded in the Coppée family archives, thus providing a terminus ante quem for the acquisition of this work.
2. See Marlier under Literature, 1969, p. 188.
3. Ertz, op. cit., 2000, pp. 684–96 and 722–36, nos. E916–944 and F945–979, many reproduced.
4. Ibid, nos E916, 917 and 930.
5. See Currie and Allart under Literature, 2012, vol. II, p. 576. The Coppée panel is of Baltic oak and has a last heartwood ring of 1601 but no sapwood; allowing for a minimum of 9 missing sapwood rings would produce a terminus post quem of 1610 for felling and panel-making.
6. Some examples of those which follow the sense of the engraving are listed by Marlier, op. cit., p. 193. Others include a group of panels which may be the work of Maerten van Cleve or his workshop.
7. Reproduced in F. Grossmann, Pieter Bruegel. The Paintings, London 1955, pp. 199–200, fig. 125.