Bruegel Defining a Dynasty – Holburne museum, Bath

Yet again this small museum has put on a wonderful show, on a family of artists that we sort of recognise, but never put them together. They are even more intriguing when you compare them with the parlous state of painting in Britain of the 17th century. The skill and variety of subjects is dazzling, from family portraits to still lifes, historical studies but especially the dizzyingly complex peasant scenes, a rich mix of metaphors, folklore and realism. 

This is the first generation, a family portrait by Pieter Coecke van Elst (1502-1550) incredible.

pietr coecke van aelst

Peter Bruegel the Elder (c1525-1569) married their daughter Maria Coecke. This is his Battle between Carnival and Lent of 1559. A whole book could try and fail to fully explain this. Brilliant.

jan eld battle carn lent

He died when his children were infants, so Peter younger and Jan the Elder were apparently trained by their grandmother but probably saw lots of their fathers sketches but none of the finished works. Pieter Brughel II followed, Jan the Elder produced Jan the younger and his grandson Hieronymus van Kessel with several generations of artists. His second marriage produced Ambrosius Brueghel and grandson David Teniers the younger and III. Whew! Has there ever been a more talented dynasty?

This is The Family of Jan Brueghel the Elder by Rubens. They collaborated on several pieces, Rubens painting the figures with Bruegel doing the landscapes. Very unusual for such collaborations. 

rubens jan elder

This is Peter Brueghel the younger’s Wedding Dance. Guy down the front is perhaps the worst dad dancer ever.

pb jun wedding dance

This is an analysis of Netherlandish Proverbs by Pieter the Elder showing how complex the imagery is, some of which is utterly opaque to modern viewers, even art experts:

Neth proverbs

This is by Abraham Brueghel, Flower study. Later generations did enamelled miniatures used in cabinets of curiosities, as well as portraits.

ant brugh

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