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Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s Work Has a Quintessential New Orleans Flavor

January 8th, 2014 | posted by Sarah Clunis

Brueghel

Most art lovers must visit a major museum in order to behold the wonder of an actual real-life Brueghel.  And here is your rare opportunity to own one.  And while you are deciding where to hang this 8th wonder of the world the rest of us can simply feel good about the fact that we are actually standing in front of an original composition by Pieter Brueghel the Younger. Yes indeed folks, most Brueghel’s are in Belgium or Vienna, in museums, or hidden away in opulent castles.

But not this one.

A village festival is the scene for some serious debauchery in this outstanding painting done in 1672 by the accomplished son of Pieter Brueghel the Elder. Religious fair meets pagan ritual in Brueghel’s St George’s Kermis with a Dance Around the Maypole.  With a sarcasm and irony typical of only a Brueghel, vignettes of drunken excess, belligerent quarreling and public urination abound as the daily bump and grind of village life continues.

It’s difficult to not find humor in this fantastic painting which offers a virtual Where’s Waldo in the form of a Northern Renaissance masterpiece. Completely interactive, Brueghel’s work invites close and prolonged inspection and offers the gift that will keep on giving. There is something new to find in this painting every time that you look at it and this is precisely why the nobles that commissioned Brueghel’s paintings in the 17th century found mad entertainment in the scenes that they portrayed.

With a solid reputation as a thoughtful interpreter of his father’s works, Brueghel the Younger had as much success for his own compositions later in his life and this piece is considered one of the major works of that select group.

So, leave your foray to Bourbon Street for a short minute to feast your eyes on our treasured version of revelry and excess. Although Flemish, Brueghel’s combination of elements- Christian with pagan, work with play and body with nature-have a quintessential New Orleans flavor, and truly communicate the universality of the absurd and the wonderful.

In the world of Old Master Painters absolutely no one renders the urban landscape with more pathos and metaphor than a Brueghel. The village is depicted as a site of both ethereal beauty and precariousness. And the people that inhabit these worlds are portrayed as chaotic and fragile, a commentary on the world they occupy.

Brueghel’s masterful palette and magnificent compositions evoke even today the idea of a retreat from the regulated and the predictable. In a sense this is our riotous moment, our great escape.

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