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Hunters in the Snow

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s iconic masterpiece, Hunters in the Snow, initially captivates through the majestic sweep of a snow-covered valley, entered into from a bird’s-eye view by a repoussoir cluster of downtrodden hunters and hounds returning with a meager catch. Its commanding presence endures thanks to the discovery of seemingly endless, often minute, details of village life and its surroundings, peppered across the surface.

Bruegel’s panel, representing winter, is one of five surviving works that were part of a now-dispersed series of six paintings of the seasons, commissioned by the Antwerp merchant Nicolaes Jongelinck, presumably to decorate the dining room of his country house. The work encapsulates Bruegel’s highly influential approaches to rendering new subjects. Independent landscape, peasant life, and a keen eye for vernacular details – to name just a few of the strikingly innovative developments he here dispatched – would become hallmarks of Netherlandish art through the late 16th and 17th centuries.

Susan Anderson, Curatorial Research Associate, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Bruegels paintings from Vienna

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