Although loosely related to the composition known in seven versions depicting peasants feasting before a long village street with the Swan Inn to the left, the composition of the present picture is known in no other versions.1 Another unique composition, found in a painting dating from before 1616 recorded as in a Spanish private collection, showing peasants feasting outside an inn to the left, also has as here an allée of trees receding to the horizon, a motif otherwise unknown in Brueghel's work.2
The principal figure group of a ring of dancers rotating counter-clockwise is also found in the centre of a much larger picture depicting the Kermesse of Saint George, dated 1628, sold at Sotheby's in London on the 8 December 2004, lot 11 (see fig. 2).3 The width of the figure group is approximately 50 cm in each picture, which suggests that the design is likely to have been transferred by tracing, as was the usual practice in Brueghel's atelier. This is borne out by the underdrawing of the present picture, revealed by infra-red imaging (see fig. 1).4 The underdrawing of the central figure group appears to have been done in two stages. The first is a characteristic outline which looks as if it was traced, while the second is freer as if working up the transferred design. The underdrawing of the buildings, trees and subsidiary figures is looser still and for the most part is clearly done freehand.
The present picture is a late work. In any event the form of its signature places it after 1626, and the close relationship of the principal figure group with the 1628 Kermesse of Saint George suggests a dating around the same time. Klaus Ertz dates it to the end of the 1620s.
The panel comprises two planks of oak of Western European, probably Netherlandish origin. A tree ring analysis conducted by Ian Tyers of Dendrochronological Consultancy Ltd. shows that the last growth ring is of 1607, and the earliest plausible date of use is thus circa 1615. His report, number 722, is avaialble on request.
1. See Ertz under Literature, vol. 2, pp. 834–36, 845–46, nos. E1179–1186, all reproduced.
2. Ibid., p. 849, no. E1195*, reproduced p. 838, fig. 673.
3. Ibid., p. 909, no. E1239, reproduced p. 870, fig. 703. This work also set an auction record for Pieter Brueghel the Younger, selling for £3.7 million.
4. Conducted by Art Access Research.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale