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The Blind

Painting, 1568, 86×154 cm

Description of the artwork «The Blind»

The Blind is one of those rare masterpieces by Pieter Brueghel (along with "Poor"), where the number of characters is relatively small. The idea of the painting possibly dates back to the parable of the Pharisees "Let them alone: they blind leaders of the blind; and if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the pit" (Matt. 15:14).

As elsewhere in his works, particular attention is paid to the landscape. In The Blind a cozy neighborhood of his favorite areas in the southern Netherlands – Brabant is depicted. Weather seems a little vague, but rooftops have already been lit with sunshine. The sharp spire of the church goes to heaven. All is full of peace and tranquility. And this is a deliberate and sharp contrast to the hectic procession of blind people.

The blind and cripples were often begging through the villages and back roads. For Bruegel, they were an integral part of the landscape. He writes of his blind without a shadow of sentimental sympathy, but in a medically accurate way, which allows the researchers to differentiate diagnoses. With the help of ophthalmologists, it was found that the third figure from the left was struck by leucomas of the cornea (in common parlance – a thorn). The one running in front of him is completely blind. But the blind man who's falling has eyes smashed in a fight or as a punishment for theft.

Blind cross slope. They move from left to right descending diagonal. Each of them is holding his stuff in one hand, and the other rests on the shoulder in front of him. Suddenly the one who is going first, loses balance and falls into the ditch. It is easy to guess that the other will inevitably fall, all the others will follow like dominoes. All this is painted by Bruegel with extreme dramatic expressiveness. We are like the blind can see in slow motion.

But does The Blind by Bruegel have the hidden meaning? Probably, yes. 
The artist lived in the era of the bloody disputes about the true faith between the Protestants and the Catholics. Dutch Protestants attacked the Church's sculptures and burned icons. They were guided by the words of John Calvin "It is a sin to give God a visible form; creation of idols means a complete rupture with the true God". And the rulers of the Netherlands, the Spanish Catholics hanged and slaughtered Protestants. Both sides were cruel and blind. And both are accused in the fatal blindness of others.

Perhaps, the Brueghel`s painting is a parable about the disastrous misconceptions about blindness that leads to the downfall and destruction of not only the blind but also those with whom he is associated. But we can't tell with definite accuracy, what side of the religious strife takes Bruegel: The Blind is a meaningful allegory.

Now the Brueghel`s painting is on display in Naples (the city where Bruegel lived for a year or two and painted marina "View Of Naples"), at the National Museum of Capodimonte.

Author: Anna Vcherashniaya
from 1450 rub
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Genre scene, Religious scene, Allegorical scene

Style of art: Northern Renaissance

Technique: Tempera

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1568

Size: 86×154 cm

Artwork in selections: 54 selections

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