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Sloth (Desidia), from the series The Seven Deadly Sins


Sloth (Desidia), from the series The Seven Deadly Sins



Public domain scan of Dutch print from Metropolitan Museum of Art, free to use, no copyright restrictions - Picryl description

Pieter Bruegel the Elder is the most significant artist of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting, a painter and printmaker, known for his landscapes and peasant scenes. Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1525–1569) was a pioneering Flemish Renaissance painter and printmaker known for his detailed landscapes and peasant scenes. Early in his life, he was a student of the painter Pieter Kroke van Aelst, and in 1551, at about the age of 26, he was admitted to the painters' guild in Antwerp as a master painter. Bruegel settled fairly early in Antwerp, where he became a master in the painters’ Guild of Saint Luke between 1551 and 1552. After a trip to Italy, he began a long-standing association with Hieronymus Cock, whose Antwerp publishing house. Between 1555 and 1563, Bruegel made over forty designs for engravings, capitalizing on the strong market demand for images in the style or manner of Hieronymus Bosch (ca. 1450–1516). Known as "Elder", to distinguish him from his elder son, also an artist, Pieter Bruegel was the greatest member of a large family of artists active for four generations. He was an inventive painter and draftsman. Bruegel translated moralizing subjects into the vernacular language in his original drawings and paintings, such as Netherlandish Proverbs which depicts over 100 proverbs in the familiar setting of a Flemish village. A number of Bruegel’s paintings focus on the lives of Flemish villages, which earned him the nickname “peasant Bruegel”. In religious or mythological depictions, such as the Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, Bruegel expanded the perspective to make the action a part of a broad scenery demonstrating the artist’s greatest innovation. For the Antwerp home of the wealthy merchant Niclaes Jongelinck, Bruegel made a series of paintings representing the Seasons, of which five survive: Gloomy Day, Return of the Herd, Hunters in the Snow (all Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), Haymaking (Národní Galerie, Prague), and The Harvesters. These panoramic compositions represent a universal vision of the world.

The roots of the Flemish school are usually placed in Dijon, the capital of the dukes of Burgundy where Philip the Bold (reigned 1363–1404) established a tradition of art patronage. Philip the Good (reigned 1419–67) moved the Burgundian capital to Brugge (Bruges). The largest county in the Southern Netherlands was Flanders and the term Flanders is often used to refer to the whole of the Southern Netherlands. Flanders produced many famous artists of Northern Europe. Arts flourished in the County of Flanders and neighboring Brabant, Hainaut, Picardy, Artois, and Tournaisis, from the early 15th century until the 17th century. In the 15th century and up to 1520 Flaundry was a part of Early Netherlandish art with the center in Antwerp. It gradually became distinct from the art of the rest of the Low Countries, especially the modern Netherlands by the end of the 16th century, when the north and the south Netherlands were politically separated. During the last quarter of the 16th century, political unrest between the northern and southern parts of the Netherlands brought a decline in Flemish art. Many Flemish artists left the Southern Netherlands for Rome, Germany, or the Dutch Republic. After Twelve Year Truce, Flemish art revived.

The term "Northern Renaissance" refers to the art development of c.1430-1580 in the Netherlands Low Countries and Germany. The Low Countries, particularly Flanders with cities Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges, were, along with Florence, the most economically advanced region in Europe. As in Florence, urban culture peaked here. The common understanding of the Renaissance places the birth of the Renaissance in Florence, Italy. Rennaisance's ideas migrated to Germany from Italy because of the travels of Albrecht Dϋrer. Northern artists such as Jan van Eyck remained attached to Medieval traditions. In their paintings, Low Countries painters attempted to reproduce space, color, volume, and light as naturalistically as possible. They achieved the perfection of oil paint in the almost impossible representation of things and objects. Rather than draw upon Classical Greek and Roman aesthetics like their Italian counterparts, Northern European Renaissance artists retained a Gothic sensibility of woodblock printing and illuminated manuscripts which clearly distinguished Northern Rennaisance art from Italian. Unlike Italian artists, northern painters were not interested in rediscovering the spirit of ancient Greece. Instead, they sought to exploit the full potential of oil paint, and capture nature exactly as they found it. Unlike their Italian counterparts, who embraced a mathematically calculated linear perspective and constructed a picture from within, Dutch artists used an empirical perspective with precise observation and knowledge of the consistency of light and things. They painted as they saw and came very close to the effect of central perspective. Long before Leonardo, they invented aerial and color perspectives. More, as with real-world human vision, their far-away shapes lose contours, and the intensity of the colors fades to a bluish hue. Robert Campin (c.1378-1444), was noted for works like the Seilern Triptych (1410) and the Merode Altarpiece (1425); Jan van Eyck (1390-1441) was noted for the Ghent Altarpiece (1432) and The Arnolfini Marriage (1434); Jan Eyck's pupil Petrus Christus (c.1410-75), best known for his Portrait of a Young Girl (1470, Gemaldegalerie, Berlin); Roger Van der Weyden (1400-64) noted for his extraordinary realism as in his masterpiece Descent From the Cross (Deposition) (1435), for the Church of Notre Dame du Dehors (now in the Museo del Prado, Madrid); Dieric Bouts (1420-75) for his devotional pictures; Hugo Van Der Goes (1440-82) famous for The Portinari Altarpiece (1475) which influenced the Early Renaissance in Florence; Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516) noted for The Garden of Earthly Delights (1510-15) and other moralizing works; Joachim Patenier (1485-1524) the pioneer landscape painter; and Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1525-1569) known for landscape narratives such as The Tower of Babel (1563).



1500 - 1600


Metropolitan Museum of Art

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pieter bruegel the elder
pieter bruegel the elder