Tag Archives: Jan Brueghel the Elder

#FineArtFriday: Forest Landscape by Jan Brueghel the Elder

Title: Forest landscape

Artist: Jan Brueghel the Elder

Genre: landscape art

Date: between circa 1605 and circa 1610

Medium: oil on oak panel

Dimensions: 40 x 32 cm

What I love about this painting:

Today’s Fine Art Friday offering is a further exploration of the works of the Flemish artist, Jan Brueghel the Elder. I began this two part series last Friday with his painting, the Great Fish Market.

The level of detail down to the leaves and the bark on the trees is amazing, but the rich colors are what attracted me, drawing me in. The heron on the rock seems poised to take flight.  Beyond the heron, on the other side of the creek, a path leads deeper into the forest, calling to us to cross over and see where it leads. The scene is beautiful the way a fantasy is, likely because it is, in a way. Brueghel most probably painted it from sketches and memory.

I quoted this last week when discussing the Great Fish Market, but it bears repeating:

“In his forest landscapes Brueghel depicted heavily wooded glades in which he captured the verdant density, and even mystery, of the forest. Although on occasion inhabited by humans and animals, these forest scenes contain dark recesses, virtually no open sky and no outlet for the eye to penetrate beyond the thick trees.” via Wikipedia.

In many ways, Jan Brueghel’s paradise landscapes paved the way for the great plein air painters of the 18th and 19th centuries. This is most definitely a Mannerist landscape painting, as it is highly romanticized.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Jan Brueghel (also Bruegel or Breughelthe Elder  (1568 – 13 January 1625) was a Flemish painter and draughtsman. He was the son of the eminent Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Brueghel the Elder. A close friend and frequent collaborator with Peter Paul Rubens, the two artists were the leading Flemish painters in the first three decades of the 17th century.

Brueghel worked in many genres including history paintings, flower still lifes, allegorical and mythological scenes, landscapes and seascapes, hunting pieces, village scenes, battle scenes and scenes of hellfire and the underworld.

He was an important innovator who invented new types of paintings such as flower garland paintings, paradise landscapes, and gallery paintings in the first quarter of the 17th century.

He also created genre paintings that were imitations, pastiches and reworkings of his father’s works, in particular his father’s genre scenes and landscapes with peasants.  Brueghel represented the type of the pictor doctus, the erudite painter whose works are informed by the religious motifs and aspirations of the Catholic Counter-Reformation as well as the scientific revolution with its interest in accurate description and classification.  He was court painter of the Archduke and Duchess Albrecht and Isabella, the governors of the Habsburg Netherlands.

The artist was nicknamed “Velvet” Brueghel, “Flower” Brueghel, and “Paradise” Brueghel. The first is believed to have been given him because of his mastery in the rendering of fabrics. The second nickname is a reference to his specialization in flower still lifes and the last one to his invention of the genre of the paradise landscape.


Credits and Attributions:

Forest Landscape by Jan Brueghel the Elder / Public domain

Wikipedia contributors, “Jan Brueghel the Elder,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jan_Brueghel_the_Elder&oldid=963723468 (accessed July 17, 2020).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Jan Brueghel (I) – Forest landscape.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Jan_Brueghel_(I)_-_Forest_landscape.jpg&oldid=354133728 (accessed July 17, 2020).

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#FineArtFriday: The Great Fish Market by Jan Brueghel the Elder 1603

Title: Great Fish Market

Artist: Jan Brueghel the Elder  (1568–1625)

Date: 1603

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions:  Height: 59 cm (23.2 in); Width: 92 cm (36.2 in)

Collection: Alte Pinakothek  Current location: room 19

Inscriptions: Signature and date, bottom left: BRVEGHEL 1603

What I love about this painting:

Here we see a composite of all the places Jan Brueghel the Elder had visited. The scene is a fusion of his Flemish homeland and impressions of places he’d sketched on his travels.

In the middle of the picture is the Neapolitan Castel dell’ Ovo, on the right, in the distance, is St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. We have a little of Italy thrown in with the Flemish, his effort to create the feeling of a busy, prosperous market. He shows his imaginary city from a high perspective, the god-like view.

In writing, this would be the omniscient point of view.

The elements presented in this painting, the harborscape, the ruins, and even the sections that are simply landscapes are all features that later became genres in their own right.

The scene contains many elements of Mannerist landscape painting. According to the Tate website, mannerist is a sixteenth-century style of art and design characterized by artificiality, elegance, and an aesthetic portrayal of the human figure.

In other words, they painted fantasy. And why not?

Flemish genre painting is strongly tied to the traditions of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It was a style that continued directly into the 17th century through copies and new compositions made by his sons Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder.

In this painting, the story opens with a view across a downward-sloping foreground. It teems with life, hundreds of figures of many races, grouped around the stalls and booths of a fish market. The group at the center of the foreground is thought to be a self-portrait of the artist and his family. It was common for artists to insert self-portraits in their works, and Jan often included his family.

One of Jan Brueghel’s most significant contributions to the craft of painting landscapes was how he depicted perspective. The eye is drawn towards the harbor in the background. We look out across the bay, along the coastline, and see entire towns, with ruins, wharves, and castles. Beyond that, we see distant mountains, painted with a blue that merges with the blue of the sea.

This blending of shape and color into the distance is how a landscape appears in real life.

These painters, and the Brueghel family in particular, were the generation who paved the way for artists like Rembrandt. Their works were the foundation upon which the masterpieces of the middle-to-late 17th century were built.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Jan Brueghel was the son of the eminent Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Brueghel the Elder.  A close friend and frequent collaborator with Peter Paul Rubens, the two artists were the leading Flemish painters in the first three decades of the 17th century.

He was born in Brussels as the son of Pieter Brueghel the Elder and Maria Coecke van Aelst. His mother was the daughter of the prominent Flemish Renaissance artists Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Mayken Verhulst. His father died about a year after Jan’s birth in 1569. It is believed that after the death of his mother in 1578, Jan, together with his brother Pieter Brueghel the Younger and sister Marie, went to live with their grandmother Mayken Verhulst, who was by then widowed. Mayken Verhulst was an artist in her own right. The early Flemish biographer Karel van Mander wrote in his Schilder-boeck published in 1604 that Mayken was the first art teacher of her two grandsons. She taught them drawing and watercolor painting of miniatures. Jan and his brother may also have trained with local artists in Brussels who were active as tapestry designers.

Jan Brueghel the Elder is regarded as an important innovator of landscape art. By introducing greater naturalism in his Alpine mountain settings, his father had expanded on the world landscape tradition that had been founded mainly by Joachim Patinir. Some of Pieter the Elder’s works also foreshadowed the forest landscape that would start to dominate landscape painting around the turn of the 16th century. Pieter the Elder also developed the village and rural landscape, placing Flemish hamlets and farms in exotic prospects of mountains and river valleys.

Jan developed on the formula he learned from his father of arranging country figures traveling a road, which recedes into the distance. He emphasized the recession into space by carefully diminishing the scale of figures in the foreground, middle-ground, and far distance. To further the sense of atmospheric perspective, he used varying tones of brown, green, and blue progressively to characterize the recession of space. His landscapes with their vast depth are balanced through his attention to the peasant figures and their humble activities in the foreground.

Like his father, Jan Brueghel also painted various village landscapes. He used the surrounding landscapes as the stage for the crowds of anecdotal, colorfully dressed peasants who engage in various activities in the market, the country roads and during the rowdy kermesses. Jan Brueghel’s landscape paintings with their strong narrative elements and attention to detail had a significant influence on Flemish and Dutch landscape artists in the second decade of the 17th century. His river views were certainly known to painters working in Haarlem, including Esaias van de Velde and Willem Buytewech, whom Brueghel may have met there when he accompanied Peter Paul Rubens on a diplomatic mission to the Dutch Republic in 1613.

Jan Brueghel was, along with artists such as Gillis van Coninxloo one of the prime developers of the dense forest landscape in the 17th century. Jan Breughel in fact experimented with such works before Coninxloo’s first dated wooded landscape of 1598. In his forest landscapes Brueghel depicted heavily wooded glades in which he captured the verdant density, and even mystery, of the forest. Although on occasion inhabited by humans and animals, these forest scenes contain dark recesses, virtually no open sky and no outlet for the eye to penetrate beyond the thick trees.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Jan Brueghel the Elder-Great Fish market.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Jan_Brueghel_the_Elder-Great_Fish_market.jpg&oldid=406069557 (accessed July 9, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “Jan Brueghel the Elder,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jan_Brueghel_the_Elder&oldid=963723468 (accessed July 9, 2020).

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#FineArtFriday: Oppression, Rebellion and Art #amwriting

Today is my first day off in 30 days – NaNoWriMo is over and I wrote 103,345 words, most of which are garbled and incomprehensible, as I can’t key well at all. So, today I am temporarily out of words.  So, I am going back to an essay I first posted in 2015 on the impact the art of the 16th century has on my work. With no further ado I give you Oppression, Rebellion and Art. Sounds like little has changed, right?


Writing, even writing fantasy, involves a certain amount of reality checking. You need to know how things actually worked.

Say you need to know what clothing the common European people wore during the renaissance looked like and how they dressed, both for celebrations, and for working.

I go to the 16th and 17th century painters and artists for that information. They always painted their subject with a heavy dose of religious allegory, but that was a part of village life–both the inquisition and the reformation was under way and the politics of religion was in the very air they breathed.

Any time you want an idea of average European village life in the Late Middle Ages through the 17th century, you need look no further than Wikimedia Commons.  There, under the heading  Category:Painters from the Northern Netherlands (before 1830) you will find the brilliant works of the Dutch Masters. These were artists living in what is now The Netherlands, and who were creating accurate records of the everyday life of the common people, along with stylized religious images.

During the 16th century, the Netherlands fought an 80 year war, trying to gain their independence from Spain, during the heart of the Spanish Inquisition. This was a period of extreme oppression and religious rebellion, and the art of times portrayed that very clearly.

I have learned, by rooting around the internet (so it must be true), that everything in the paintings of the time, no matter how commonplace, was allegorical, symbolic of some higher message. In art history (which I have always wanted to study), iconography is a visual language. This means that the way a subject is depicted and the way the image is organized, such as the number of figures used, their placing and gestures, all have specific meanings. The allegories they painted made heavy use of this visual language.

One particular family of of early Dutch painters from the county of Flanders pique my interest, the Brueghel Family. Five generations of their family were well-known painters, and print-makers.

One of my favorite early Dutch paintings is the Wedding Dance, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder:

What makes this painting so spectacular to me is the amazing detail of the clothing. They loved color. From Wikipedia: The painting depicts 125 wedding guests. As was customary in the Renaissance period, the brides wore black and men wore codpieces. Voyeurism is depicted throughout the entire art work; dancing was tabooed at the time by the authorities and the church, and the painting can be seen as both a critique and comic depiction of a stereotypical oversexed, overindulgent, peasant class of the times.

All of these people are depicted as plump, which was a desirable trait–they were prosperous and not starving. All the things that (to this day) make a great party are there: music, food, and dancing. The men wear codpieces, emphasizing their male anatomy in the same way that in today’s society, women’s breasts are hyper-sexualized.  Perhaps codpieces should make a comeback in the men’s fashion world. I’ll show off my babyfeeders, if you parade your babymaker–that way we’ll both be sure we are getting something worth having. (or not.)

Anyway, back to the renaissance. They paid taxes, and this his how their IRS office looked to Brueghel’s eldest son, Pieter Jr. As you can see, not a lot has changed between then and now–we still pay in chickens and eggs. (heh heh.)

Brueghel’s eldest son, Pieter the Younger,  was never considered as fine a painter as his father or his brother, Jan Brueghel. He was considered a fine print-maker and his work shop was highly regarded. But he was not respected as an artist. Critics of the day felt he copied his father’s style, rather than developing his own. While he did paint in a folk-art style reminiscent of his father’s, his is sharper, more refined, taking it to the next level.

Notice how the people in the above picture are looking lean and ragged though, as opposed to the wedding picture painted by Pieter the Elder. The Little Ice Age had really gripped Europe, and times were hard.

So here is a painting by the second son of Pieter Brueghel the Elder, and a man who fathered his own dynasty of artists, Jan Bruegel the Elder. This is called People Dancing on a Riverbank and by their dress, with the neck-ruffs, you can see it depicts a wealthier class than his brother’s images, perhaps the merchant class rather than the peasants.

One hundred years later, the Dutch were famous for their painters–and everyone wanted to own a Dutch masterpiece. Times had become quite hard, as the climate had cooled and crops regularly failed. Once-prosperous families often lived in the ruins of their family manors.

In the above picture by Adriaen Van Ostade, these peasants are living in an enormous, decrepit farmhouse, almost like squatters. They are no longer plump, and are living in filthy conditions. The fire in the fireplace is very low, as if fuel was scarce.

Another famous Dutch painting, from the same time period but showing a different segment of society is The Milkmaid, by Johannes Vermeer. In this painting, Vermeer shows an everyday task, a small glimpse of something that occurred daily in every household, a woman cooking.

In the background on the floor is a foot-warmer which was filled with coals and was an essential luxury, showing this was one of the wealthier households.

According to Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge: By depicting the working maid in the act of careful cooking, the artist presents not just a picture of an everyday scene, but one with ethical and social value. The humble woman is using common ingredients and otherwise useless stale bread to create a pleasurable product for the household.

I love art depicting the lives of ordinary people. I find the small details intriguing. It shows us that in many ways we are not that different than they were. We want food, decent shelter, and of course, stylish clothes to attract a mate.

And back then as it does now, a hint of anything taboo would most certainly find its way into even a religious painting.

The best part of all this is, a woman with an average education and on a tight budget (like me) can enjoy these wonderful works of art at will. I can examine them  in as much detail as I want, and take all the time I want, and no one will stop me or throw me out of their museum for loitering, because the internet is open all hours and is free.

Wikimedia Commons is a great resource to just roam around in, even when you are not looking for something specific.


Credits and Attributions:

This post was first published June 8,, 2015 under the title  #Inspiration: Oppression, rebellion and art, by Connie J. Jasperson, ©  2015 All Rights Reserved

Hunters in the Snow, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, PD|100 via Wikimedia Commons

The Wedding Dance, c.1566 (oil on panel) by Bruegel, Pieter the Elder (c.1525-69)

The Payment of the Tithes (The tax-collector), also known as Village Lawyer, Pieter Bruegel, the Younger, signed P Brueghel PD|100

People Dancing on a Riverbank, Jan Bruegel the elder, via Wikimedia Commons PD|100

Peasants in an Interior, Adriaen Van Ostade (1661) via Wikimedia Commons PD|100

The Milkmaid, Johannes Vermeer, via Wikimedia Commons PD|100

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#Inspiration: Oppression, rebellion and art

Hunters in the Snow, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, via Wikimedia Commons

Hunters in the Snow, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, via Wikimedia Commons

Writing, even writing fantasy, involves a certain amount of reality checking. You need to know how things actually worked.

Say you need to know what clothing the common European people wore during the renaissance looked like and how they dressed, both for celebrations, and for working.

I go to the 16th and 17th century painters and artists for that information. They always painted their subject with a heavy dose of religious allegory, but that was a part of village life–both the inquisition and the reformation was under way and the politics of religion was in the very air they breathed.

Any time you want an idea of average European village life in the Late Middle Ages through the 17th century, you need look no further than Wikimedia Commons.  There, under the heading  Category:Painters from the Northern Netherlands (before 1830) you will find the brilliant works of the Dutch Masters. These were artists living in what is now The Netherlands, and who were creating accurate records of the everyday life of the common people, along with stylized religious images.

During the 16th century, the Netherlands fought an 80 year war, trying to gain their independence from Spain, during the heart of the Spanish Inquisition. This was a period of extreme oppression and religious rebellion, and the art of times portrayed that very clearly.

I have learned, by rooting around the internet (so it must be true), that everything in the paintings of the time, no matter how commonplace, was allegorical, symbolic of some higher message. In art history (which I have always wanted to study), iconography is a visual language. This means that the way a subject is depicted and the way the image is organized, such as the number of figures used, their placing and gestures, all have specific meanings. The allegories they painted made heavy use of this visual language.

One particular family of of early Dutch painters from the county of Flanders pique my interest, the Brueghel Family. Five generations of their family were well-known painters, and print-makers.

One of my favorite early Dutch paintings is the Wedding Dance, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder:

The Wedding Dance, c.1566 (oil on panel) by Bruegel, Pieter the Elder (c.1525-69)

The Wedding Dance, c.1566 (oil on panel) by Bruegel, Pieter the Elder (c.1525-69)

What makes this painting so spectacular to me is the amazing detail of the clothing. They loved color. From Wikipedia: The painting depicts 125 wedding guests. As was customary in the Renaissance period, the brides wore black and men wore codpieces. Voyeurism is depicted throughout the entire art work; dancing was tabooed at the time by the authorities and the church, and the painting can be seen as both a critique and comic depiction of a stereotypical oversexed, overindulgent, peasant class of the times.

All of these people are depicted as plump, which was a desirable trait–they were prosperous and not starving. All the things that (to this day) make a great party are there: music, food, and dancing. The men wear codpieces, emphasizing their male anatomy in the same way that in today’s society, women’s breasts are hyper-sexualized.  Perhaps codpieces should make a comeback in the men’s fashion world. I’ll show off my babyfeeders, if you parade your babymaker–that way we’ll both be sure we are getting something worth having. (or not.)

Anyway, back to the renaissance. They paid taxes, and this his how their IRS office looked to Brueghel’s eldest son, Pieter Jr. As you can see, not a lot has changed between then and now–we still pay in chickens and eggs. (heh heh.)

Pieter_Brueghel_the_Younger_(or_workshop)_The_Payment_of_the_Tithes_

The Payment of the Tithes (The tax-collector), also known as Village Lawyer, Pieter Bruegel, the Younger, signed P Brueghel

Brueghel’s eldest son, Pieter the Younger,  was never considered as fine a painter as his father or his brother, Jan Brueghel. He was considered a fine print-maker and his work shop was highly regarded. But he was not respected as an artist. Critics of the day felt he copied his father’s style, rather than developing his own. While he did paint in a folk-art style reminiscent of his father’s, his is sharper, more refined, taking it to the next level.

Notice how the people in the above picture are looking lean and ragged though, as opposed to the wedding picture painted by Pieter the Elder. The Little Ice Age had really gripped Europe, and times were hard.

So here is a painting by the second son of Pieter Brueghel the Elder, and a man who fathered his own dynasty of artists, Jan Bruegel the Elder. This is called People Dancing on a Riverbank and by their dress, with the neck-ruffs, you can see it depicts a wealthier class than his brother’s images, perhaps the merchant class rather than the peasants.

People_dancing_on_a_river_bank_by_Jan_Brueghel_the_elder

People Dancing on a riverbank, Jan Bruegel the elder, via Wikimedia Commons

One hundred years later, the Dutch were famous for their painters–and everyone wanted to own a Dutch masterpiece. Times had become quite hard, as the climate had cooled and crops regularly failed. Once-prosperous families often lived in the ruins of their family manors.

Peasants_in_an_Interior_(1661)_Adriaen_van_Ostade

Peasants in an Interior, Adriaen Van Ostade (1661) via Wikimedia Commons

In the above picture by Adriaen Van Ostade, these peasants are living in an enormous, decrepit farmhouse, almost like squatters. They are no longer plump, and are living in filthy conditions. The fire in the fireplace is very low, as if fuel was scarce.

Another famous Dutch painting, from the same time period but showing a different segment of society is The Milkmaid, by Johannes Vermeer. In this painting, Vermeer shows an everyday task, a small glimpse of something that occurred daily in every household, a woman cooking.

The Milkmaid, Johannes Vermeer, via Wikimedia Commons

The Milkmaid, Johannes Vermeer, via Wikimedia Commons

In the background on the floor is a foot-warmer which was filled with coals and was an essential luxury, showing this was one of the wealthier households.

According to Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge: By depicting the working maid in the act of careful cooking, the artist presents not just a picture of an everyday scene, but one with ethical and social value. The humble woman is using common ingredients and otherwise useless stale bread to create a pleasurable product for the household.

I love art depicting the lives of ordinary people. I find the small details intriguing. It shows us that in many ways we are not that different than they were. We want food, decent shelter, and of course, stylish clothes to attract a mate.

And back then as it does now, a hint of anything taboo would most certainly find its way into even a religious painting.

The best part of all this is, a woman with an average education and on a tight budget (like me) can enjoy these wonderful works of art at will. I can examine them  in as much detail as I want, and take all the time I want, and no one will stop me or throw me out of their museum for loitering, because the internet is open all hours and is free.

Wikimedia Commons is a great resource to just roam around in, even when you are not looking for something specific.

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