Paul Holberton Publishing
Date de publication
Nombre de pages
21,1 x 21,1 x 1 cm
396 g

Peasants and Proverbs

Pieter Brueghel the Younger as Moralist and Entrepreneur

Paul Holberton Publishing

This catalogue accompanies an exhibtion at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts that will
shine the spotlight on Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564 – 1638), an artist who was
hugely successful in his lifetime but whose later reputation has been overshadowed by
that of his famous father, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1525 – 1569).
Peasants and Proverbs: Pieter Brueghel the Younger as Moralist and Entrepreneur shares
recent research into the Barber’s comical yet enigmatic little painting, Two Peasants
Binding Firewood, setting out fresh insights and offering a new appreciation of a figure
whose prodigious output and business skills firmly established and popularised the
distinctive ‘Brueghelian’ look of Netherlandish peasant life.
Born in Brussels, Pieter Brueghel the Younger was just five years old when his
already renowned father died prematurely. Clearly talented, by the time he was around
20 years old, Brueghel the Younger was already registered as a master in Antwerp’s
Guild of Saint Luke. Between 1588, the year of his marriage, and 1626, he took on nine
apprentices, demonstrating that he had established a successful studio. His workshop
produced an abundance of paintings, ranging from exact copies of famous compositions
by his father, to pastiches and more inventive compositions that further promoted the
distinctive Bruegelian ‘family style’, usually focused on scenes of peasant life. He was, as
a consequence, later deemed a second-rate painter, capable of only producing derivative
This exhibition and book highlight how a more sophisticated understanding is
now emerging of a creative and capable artist, and a savvy entrepreneur, who exploited
favourable market conditions from his base in cosmopolitan Antwerp. From this deeper
understanding of his practice, his favoured subjects and the market for them, we gain
a more profound and compelling insight into the society in which he operated and its
preoccupations and passions.
A dozen other versions of Two Peasants Binding Firewood exist and, by examining
some of them alongside the Barber painting, and using the insights gleaned from recent
conservation work and technical analysis, the exhibition and book will explore how
Brueghel the Younger operated his studio to produce and reproduce paintings, and the
extent to which the entire enterprise was motivated by trends in the contemporary art
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