kunstner: Pieter Bruegel The Elder
This is the second-largest known painting by Bruegel. It is one of sixteen paintings by him which are listed in the inventory of the wealthy Antwerp collector, Niclaes Jonghelinck, drawn up in 1566. It was Jonghelinck who commissioned the Months from Bruegel and he may also have commissioned this work. Jonghelinck's Bruegels passed into the possession of the city of Antwerp in the year in which the inventory was made. In 1604 it was recorded in the Prague collections of Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, then transferred to Vienna, and in 1809 (until 1815) in Paris, requisitioned by Napoleon Bonaparte as part of his war booty. For Bruegel the composition is unusually traditional. Perhaps because he was treating such a solemn religious event, he adopted a well-known scheme, used previously by the Brunswick Monogrammist and Bruegel's Antwerp contemporary, Pieter Aertsen. Christ's insignificance among the crowds is a familiar device of mannerist painting (it recurs in the Preaching of John the Baptist, as well as The Conversion of Paul), as is the artificial placing of Mary and her companions in a rocky foreground,see image details which is deliberately distanced from the dramatic events taking place behind them.