CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Brueghel in Enschede

Exhibition: 12 March - 1 June 2009

From the museum website, 3 May 2009

In September last year the AVRO TV programme Tussen Kunst & Kitsch (Between Art and Kitsch) was produced in the Rijksmuseum Twenthe in Enschede. During the shooting for the programme a small, round painting of Pieter Brueghel the younger (1564-1638) was discovered.

Expert John Hoogsteder recognised it immediately as a Brueghel and spoke enthusiastically about the ‘the find of the century’. The painting was bought in 1950 for 100 guilders (the then Dutch currency). The Tussen Kunst & Kitsch programme during which the discovery was made will be broadcast on Wednesday 11 March.

In the meantime the panel is on long-term loan to the Rijksmuseum Twenthe. This new addition really complements the paintings of Pieter Brueghel the younger that are already in the museum collection. The ‘new’ Brueghel is now shown together with these works.

The undated painting has a diameter of 17 cm. it depicts a man and woman, resting at a tree after haymaking. The artist’s signature is visible between the trunk and the large left side branch of the tree, and reads from the top down. The scene is probably a depiction from a series on the four seasons or the months of the year. Series like these were popular in the 16th and 17th century, and depicted activities that characterised the time of year. In this case the painting probably depicts a scene which illustrates the ‘haymaking month’ July. The location of the other scenes from the series in which the panel figured is unknown.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Pieter Brueghel worked in Antwerp and was the son of Pieter Bruegel the elder (the spelling of the names of father and son differ), who with his landscapes and religious and folkloristic compositions had a significant influence on the view of 16th century Netherlandish painting. The young Pieter, who lost his father when he was just five years old, is primarily known for the copies and variations he made of compositions of Pieter the elder. Father and son mostly painted detailed narrative scenes in warm tones and colours, full of figures in peasant dress.

Helped by his assistants and apprentices, the son Pieter ensured that after the death of his father the considerable demand for payable, characteristic ‘Bruegel scenes’ could be met. Dozens of variations of some Bruegel scenes were made. For example, Brueghel made from one painting by his father (which is now in Brussels) at least 45 times Winter landscape with a bird trap, each one with a slightly different variation in colour and composition. A fine example from this series is in the collection of the Rijksmuseum Twenthe.

The fame of the father Pieter as a painter can in part be attributed to the work his son devoted to copying his art. Lost works of the father, of whom only about 40 paintings have survived, are often only known through copies his son made. It is not yet clear whether the ‘new’ painting is an original composition of Pieter the younger or a copy of one of his father’s paintings.