Lot 5
  • 5

Marten van Cleve the Elder

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
106,250 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Marten van Cleve the Elder
  • A wedding dance
  • oil on oak panel, circular


Anonymous sale ('Property from a Canadian Estate'), New York, Christie's, 3 October 2001, lot 3;
With Koetser Gallery, Zurich, 2002;
From whom acquired by the present owner.


K. Ertz and C. Nitze-Ertz, Marten van Cleve 1524–1581, Lingen 2014, pp. 65, 197, cat. no. 131, reproduced p. 196, fig. 131.

Catalogue Note

Van Cleve’s numerous depictions of wedding dances (as recounted in the note for lot 1 in this catalogue) most often follow a pattern devised and popularised by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1525–1569), but this close composition of an intimate celebration dominated by the poised musician seems to be of Van Cleve's own invention. It is unusual in the emphasis given to the figure of the bagpiper leaning against the tree trunk as he alone squeezes out the tune to which the merry revellers dance.

The motif of the bagpipe in sixteenth-century Netherlandish art was, however, well established. In the right hand hellish panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s 1510 triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, devils lead sinners in a dance around an enormous flesh-coloured bagpipe, a symbol again repeated on the sign of the inn inside a giant eggshell of a man’s torso, in which sinners are depicting drinking, leaving little doubt as to the popular interpretation of the instruments symbolic meaning by the early sixteenth century.1 The bagpipe or lillepijp (prick-pipe) had become, by Van Cleve’s time, the instrument of choice of peasants, beggars, shepherds and all other representatives of the lowest social class, and was often included in representations of peasant celebrations where it was frequently associated with drunkenness and folly, gluttony and lust.2

The present bagpiper, in the imposing position afforded to him by Van Cleve, is reminiscent of another in a print by Albrecht Dürer, dated 1514.3 Durer’s bagpiper similarly leans quite casually against a tree as he squeezes the leather bag between his forearms, the two upright drones slung over his far shoulder. While Dürer’s bagpiper is the sole subject of his print, Van Cleve’s figure acts as an effective repoussoir leading our attention to the dancing figures of the wedding guests; to the bride resplendent in her wedding crown and belt of red beads, and on over the heads of the dancers to the flock of unwatched sheep and to a reveller who looks as though he has over-indulged at the wedding feast. Pieter Bruegel the Elder used figures that served a similar purpose at either side of the composition of his earliest documented Wedding Dance in the Detroit Institute of Arts, one of which is also a bagpiper.4


1. See M. Ilsink et al., Hieronymus Bosch, Painter and Draughtsman: Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London 2016, p. 356, cat. no. 21, reproduced, and the detail reproduced p. 363, fig. 21.24.

2. E. Buijsen et al., Music and Painting in the Golden Age, exhibition catalogue, The Hague 1994, p. 246.

3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, accession no. 19.73.103.

4. Detroit Institute of Arts accession no. 30.374. See F. Grossmann, Brueghel, The Paintings, London 1955, p. 200, cat. no. 121, reproduced pl. 121.