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Visit to the Peasants

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Jan Brueghel I
Brussels 1568 – Antwerp 1625
oil on panel
30.5 x 46.5 cm
Inventory number 645

A couple of burghers, accompanied by a maid, are visiting a farm. The atmosphere in the room is pleasantly busy. In the right foreground, a child is begging for alms from the wealthy guests, who offer their host a loaf of sugar bread. Near the fireplace, a woman is tending to a newborn child. A dog has climbed into its cradle. A third child, seated on a chair, is drinking from a jar. At the centre of the room, a large cauldron is heated on the fire. Other interesting details around the room include the coloured prints that have been attached to the armrest of the bench, the caged magpie in the background, and the dog begging beside a man who is eating porridge. In the centre background, two figures are churning milk. Looking at the picture, one can almost hear the sounds of the various activities going on in the farm. The painting is a copy by Jan Brueghel I of an original by his father Pieter Bruegel. The same composition was, for that matter, also copied by Jan’s brother, Pieter Brueghel II. Clearly Pieter Bruegel was a great source of inspiration to Jan, but this did not prevent him from developing an own style and becoming quite renowned in his own right.

Maternity visit

It was initially thought that the scene depicted a visit by a rich foster father to a newly born godchild. But it is now believed to represent a maternity visit by a landlord to his tenants. Sugar bread was, after all, a traditional gift after childbirth.

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