Tag Archives: Pieter Breugel the Elder

A Perfect Summer Day

Public Domain Image

Public Domain Image

Pieter Breugel the Elder painted a series of six seasonal landscapes in around 1565.  Each represents two months of the year. Five of them survive, including the beautiful and haunting “Hunters in the Snow,” now exhibited in the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum.

The Lobkowicz Palace in Prague has the June and July panel, titled “Haymaking” or “The Haymakers.”  It is as warm and inviting as the winter landscape is cool and mysterious.  The painting depicts peasants moving through their time-honored routines of bringing in the hay.  A small image hardly does justice to the glorious painting.  Pieter Breugel was known in his lifetime by the nickname “The Peasant” because he often dressed in peasant clothing so that he could blend in and observe his subjects for long periods of time.  The people in this painting have a natural nobility and a natural connection with the agricultural landscape that sustains them.

Prague is not my favorite city.  Years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, it is still pretty rough around the edges. I rented an apartment from an agency there.  I asked how to get from the train station to the agency office.  I was told to wait right on the train station platform for a driver to collect me.  According to Rick Steves, hailing a cab outside the station invites severe overcharging or worse.  I guess that must be true.  Once I got settled, though, I felt perfectly safe in tourist areas. No doubt there are pickpockets, as in any large city, but I had no problems.


The city is a magnet for all of Eastern Europe, so it is full of partying crowds day and night.  But the Lobkowicz Palace, on Castle Hill, is a haven of peace.  The history of the palace  is fascinating.  The noble family lost everything to the Nazis, regained some of it, and lost it all over again to the Communists.  They were staunch opponents of both regimes.  The palace today hosts daily chamber concerts in a lovely, quiet music room. Afterward, a stroll through the grand rooms with an audioguide provides a unique glimpse into the turbulent history of the city, seen through the ups and downs of an aristocratic family. There’s a nice restaurant with views over the rooftops of Prague.

The palace’s website is at http://www.lobkowicz.cz/en/Highlights-from-The-Collections-47.htm?item=112

Join me next time for more explorations into the art and history of Europe!

A Perfect Winter Day

Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Some regular visitors to the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum head straight to a particular painting.  Austria subsidizes yearly passes for museum visitors, so many–some say a majority- of Viennese would not think of being without a yearly ticket and popping in to visit favorite works of art on their daily rounds.  A particular favorite is “Hunters in the Snow,” painted in 1565 by Pieter Breugel the Elder. Some people consider it the most beautiful and intriguing painting in the world.  It doesn’t draw the crowds of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, but there are always a few admirers standing before this painting, transfixed.


Last time I visited the Kunsthistorisches, I lingered in the glorious roomful of Breugels.  A woman was absorbed in painting a perfect copy “Hunters in the Snow”.  I envied her: she was spending untold hours lost in the vision of a great artist who captured a winter day almost 500 years ago.


Breugel was a Flemish artist, but this is not a landscape from the Low Countries.  He was known to have traveled to Italy, and he very likely passed through the Austrian Alps on his way.  This is definitely an alpine landscape, which would have seemed exotic and particularly beautiful to the folks back home.

I spent awhile looking over this artist’s shoulder.  What better way to spend a winter afternoon than in the company of Pieter Breugel the Elder, gazing at a landscape that he brought home as a perfect memory of his travels?

I am home from my own travels, back in the mountains of Colorado, having my own perfect winter days playing in the 16 feet of snow we have received so far this winter.  But I can imagine a different kind of winter’s day, spent sharing brushstrokes with a great artist.  What painting would I choose? What kind of permission would I need? Could I fit my paints and brushes into my carryon? It’s another travel dream.


Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe!