Pieter Bruegel the Elder - Head of a peasant woman

by Sylvi Weidlich


In different warm brown tones, the hair completely covered with a plain white hood, we see a peasant woman in large figure. She looks at a situation that remains hidden from the viewer, outside the picture scene. Perhaps she has just received bad news?

Her face is marked by hardships and the hard work in the fields. The cheekbones and skull are slightly protruded. The skin is tanned a leathery color from rain and sun. With a simple design and far from an idealized representation, we look at an open mouth with blocky teeth, the jaw hangs down far.

It is up to the viewer to decide whether he or she sees an astonished face that has just been duped into believing a tall tale. Or is it pure fear, possibly of her own transience, at the sight of which the farmer's wife's mouth remains open?


Pieter Brueghel the Elder is considered one of the most important Dutch genre painters of his time. Most of his paintings deal with the life of peasants, which was closely connected with the rhythm of the seasons. Not irreverent, but with unsparing brushstrokes, Brueghel gives the people in his peasant scenes lively facial features. Showing the unadorned nature of peasant life was of great importance to him, because unlike with the graced aristocracy, convention and custom did not play a major role among the peasants, who had to ensure their survival on a daily basis in the fields.


Pieter Bruegel the Elder - Head of a peasant woman

Oil on wood, 1568, 22 x 18 cm, Alte Pinakothek in Munich