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Dancing figures on a river with a fish and a portrait of the artist in the foreground

Painting, 1616, 25.5×37.5 cm

Description of the artwork «Dancing figures on a river with a fish and a portrait of the artist in the foreground»

Landscape "Dancing shadows on the river" is unique not only in that it contains a self-portrait of the artist and his family. In addition to this bucolic scene subtly shows the political, religious and personal beliefs of the author. The painting belongs to the period when Jan Brueghel, nicknamed "Velvet" for his immaculate technique detailed landscapes and still lifes, served as a painter at the court of Archduke Albrecht VII and his wife Isabel are co-rulers of the Spanish Netherlands. It was a time of political stability, the truce between the Protestant provinces of the Northern Netherlands and the Catholic areas in the South of the country under the control of the Spaniards.

"Dancing figures..." — the last and perhaps the most complex picture in a series of images of coastal settlements created by Bruegel in the early seventeenth century. In the foreground right of centre the artist has placed yourself and your family. Personality can be recognized by portrait, who a year earlier wrote a friend and colleague Brueghel Peter Paul Rubens(now the painting is at the Courtauld Institute of art). There are only three landscapes with self-portraits of the painter, and the only one remaining in private collection.

Interestingly, Bruegel has depicted himself not as an artist, and a wealthy gentleman. This is a demonstration of the fact that the painters of the era began to imagine themselves as intellectual-minded artists rather than just craftsmen.

Careful the transfer of plants and trees on this relatively small panel relates to the teaching of the Catholic Church in the Netherlands the period of Counter-reformation. It is said that the world is a reflection of God. Writing down the details of the landscape with an almost scientific meticulousness, the artist becomes closer to the knowledge of the Almighty and evaluation of all elements of Creation.

Another religious moment on the picture fisherman selling their catch. This image was widely interpreted as a reference to the apostles (Matthew 4:19), which Christ called "fishers of men" designed to draw people to the Church. Dead fish around the basket on the contrast from living in the water should remind you of the fleetingness and fragility of life, as well as the importance of the moral life.

Other moral issues include a dancing woman who are about to lose your wallet (a reference to the saying "a fool is soon parted with money"). Drunkenness and lust is condemned by the Church, and Brueghel, most likely, uses dancers to denounce the excesses.

Above and to the left can be seen the poor man, holding out the hat rider that is as close to the crowd — deaf to the pleas of a beggar. Perhaps the artist wanted to show that these people have forgotten their Christian duty, and to remind about the importance of charity as one of the seven merciful deeds.

Bruegel has written numerous river landscapes, glorifying calm daily life. And this series of paintings was popular among his patrons more as a political message. During a Twelve years ' truce, concluded in 1609, in the Southern Netherlands started to revive agriculture and the rural economy. Probably the Bruegel scenes of village harmony urged him rounds in social stability in the territories controlled by Spain.

Such a masterfully crafted little works are highly prized among collectors of the time. They were meant to be private, "armchair" study and thoughtful of deciphering the symbols. Usually they were housed in special rooms with artifacts, scientific instruments, Antiques, man-made and natural curiosities.

Before this painting, painted in oil on copper, was part of the Bavarian Royal collection and now is among the best works by Jan Brueghel the Elder remaining in private hands. In early 2017, the auction house Christie's announced its sale with an estimate of 5.5 million to 8 million pounds (of 7.2 — 10.4 million dollars). However, on 6 July of the same year the product was withdrawn from the bidding for an unknown reason.

Author: Vlad Maslov
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Landscape, Genre scene

Style of art: Baroque, The Golden age of Holland

Technique: Oil

Materials: Copper

Date of creation: 1616

Size: 25.5×37.5 cm

Artwork in selections: 7 selections