Flemish Fair

Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Photo: UMJ/N. Lackner

Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564–1638)

Flemish Fair

Oil on wood

Inv. no. 59

Life as a celebration


Away from the royal courts, the common people develop their own culture, which despite all the constraints allows full development of the joy of life. Harvest-time, weddings and church festivals offer a plethora of occasions. Otherwise, hard work defines the lives of the farmers, in addition to total dependence on the landlord. Rural life is integrated into the course of nature: The sequence of the seasons sets the rhythm of the work, always threatened by dangers such as crop failure, arbitrariness and war.


But in addition to work, exuberant celebrations shape rural life. Countless printed and painted representations testify to this but are intended for the eyes of the derisive townsman. For him peasants are uncultured and immoral, almost animals, who indulge in their vices such as lust, gluttony and drink. So, too, the Brueghel family’s depictions of peasants are only cheerful and harmless at first glance. In truth, colourful village life stands for the foolish world. The true ruler is the fool whom the children follow. They stand for the seducible nature of man.


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