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Pieter Bruegel the Elder - Peasant Wedding

by Alexandra Tuschka

At a long table, the peasants are enjoying themselves. Food is on the table, wine is flowing, musicians underscore the scene. Where we are quickly becomes clear: ladders and hay bales in the background define the interior of a barn.

At first it is not obvious where the bride and groom are actually sitting here. The viewer's gaze is stopped in the foreground by two people carrying flat wide plates. The bright top of the one in front is the first eye-catcher of the picture.

Behind this is a dark green cloth on which a papering crown has been hung. The so blissfully looking woman under it must be the bride. However, one looks for her groom in vain. It is not clear whether a classical peasant wedding is meant, where the groom was not allowed to be present, or whether we are rather dealing with an allegory or a "proverbial picture", as we so often find in Breughel's work.

Typical of peasant paintings of this time, we find various original human types in the picture - for example, the child with the red cap in the foreground, who has made himself comfortable on the ground, snacking. The reading direction and composition are clearly built from left to right. The two men in front, one of whom has a wooden spoon stuck in his hat and is thus identified as a migrant worker, frame another. The latter is sitting on the bench, but turns around and takes a plate from the wood to pass it on to the men. Gravity, however, is not to be underestimated: If he lifts the plate, some others could possibly land on the floor right away.

Breughel, who is often reduced to a "peasant painter," was in fact a cultured man. However, he did enjoy dressing up as peasants with his friend, the merchant Hans Franckert, and taking part in the typical festivities, thus providing us, soon to be 500 years later, with some insights into their daily lives.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder - Peasant Wedding

Oil on oak wood, ca. 1586, 114 x 164 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna


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