For the first time in the Netherlands: Six panels by Pieter Bruegel the Elder together

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Pig Must Go in the Sty, 1557, signed and dated brUeg…mdlvii, panel, diameter 20 cm, private collection.

Press release

For the first time in the Netherlands: Six panels by Pieter Bruegel the Elder together
2 October 2015

Five panels by Pieter Bruegel the Elder are travelling to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen from all over the world for ‘Uncovering Everyday Life – From Bosch to Bruegel’. Visitors to the exhibition will have the unique opportunity to see six panels by this sixteenth-century old master together in Rotterdam. Never before have so many Bruegels been gathered together. ‘The Pig Must Go in the Sty’ (1557), owned by a private collector, makes its first ever appearance in an exhibition.

The oeuvre of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1526 -1569) is small (around forty works) and his works are fragile, so museums are understandably cautious about lending these panels. In a single exhibition in Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is showing ‘The Peasant and the Birdnester’ from Vienna, ‘Winter Landscape with Bird Trap’ from Brussels, ‘Three Soldiers’ from New York, ‘The Crippled Beggars’ from Paris and ‘The Pig Must Go in the Sty’ from a private collection. Bruegel’s ‘The Tower of Babel’ of 1560, possibly the artist’s most iconic painting, can be seen elsewhere in the museum, in the permanent collection.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder: the Great Exemplar
Subjects painted by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, who lived in the Southern Netherlands, were frequently copied by later painters. Bruegel’s oldest work in the exhibition is ‘The Pig Must Go in the Sty’. This panel, based on a medieval saying, shows a group of people pushing a man into a pigsty. It is painted on the back of a trencher – a wooden plate – and is consequently round. ‘The Peasant and the Birdnester’ is a work Bruegel the Elder made later in his career and has all his famous characteristics: the subtle painting technique and the peasant themes. ‘Winter Landscape with Bird Trap’ is an atmospheric scene with skaters thronging the ice, a theme for which the painter is world-renowned. We know of at least 120 seventeenth-century copies of this work. To this day the image can be found on a wide range of items.

Pioneers of Everyday Life
Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s world-famous paintings are the finale to the work of three generations of artists who started a veritable revolution in painting in the sixteenth century. In the early part of that century Jheronimus Bosch was one of the first to begin painting everyday life. Following in his footsteps, other artists like Lucas van Leyden, Quinten Massys and, above all, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, also discovered daily life. In the autumn exhibition ‘Uncovering Everyday Life –From Bosch to Bruegel’ (10 October 2015-17 January 2016) Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen presents a selection of top-flight paintings and prints. These are works of art that mirror society with irony and self-mockery and have no truck with prudishness: from brothels to crowds of skaters, from unrequited love to merry-making peasants. Sometimes there is a moral, but the humour, the malicious delight and the self-mockery always predominate. With forty paintings and as many prints by such artists as Jeronimus Bosch, Lucas van Leyden and Quinten Massys, Jan Sanders van Hemessen, Marinus van Reymerswaele, Jan Provoost, Pieter Aertsen and Joachim Beuckelaer and Pieter Bruegel the Elder.