Just imagine this beautiful landscape
FOR this feature you must use your imagination. I have given you a head start with this picture of a Bruegel-like landscape taken from my bedroom window in Padfield this morning, but you have to people it with the peasant characters and animals which the 16th Century Flemish painter would have included.
Perhaps a hunter traversing the hill on his way home with a sack, cows and horses maybe, both would normally have been there for you, but sensibly they had gone indoors to escape the cold, and what about a couple of sweethearts cuddling together beneath a hedge?
Definitely groups of children sledging and playing other games and without doubt there would also be crows; normally this view of mine would have up to 100 jackdaws milling around, so don’t leave them out of your imaginary landscape.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder spent much of his early life near Bruges, but it was during a visit to Italy in 1552 that he became captivated by Alpine landscapes. On his return to Antwerp he worked for the engraver Jerome Coecke, designing satirical and allegorical prints. These, and some of his paintings, such as The Fall of the Rebel Angels – Brussels, were influenced by the fantasy of Hieronymus Bosch, but between 1558 and 1569 his real passion was expressed in a series of works depicting peasant life and landscape. They include The Peasant Dance and The Wedding Feast – Vienna, the Massacre of the Innocents – Vienna, The Census of Bethlehem – Brussels, and the series of the months, of which five remain, including February – now known as Hunters in the Snow.
Like Bosch before him, Bruegel delighted in the little vignette, the painterly equivalent of a funny aside, an owl peeping from a barn, a farmer scratching his bottom, or even a crafty thief lifting a purse from the waist-belt of a distracted merchant, which is why he would have absolutely loved the scene which unfolded before me as I took this picture.
I heard a rustling in the foreground hedge, followed by the startled call of a blackbird as it shot out in a hurry, but was then startled myself by a cat which stepped out in front of me, not by the moggy you understand, but by the foot-long rat in its mouth.
The cat must be from Cheshire because it had the biggest grin on its face as it set off home with its prize. Bruegel would have undoubtedly incorporated the scene into a painting, and more than likely the flustered Lady of the House showing her petticoat when the house cat returned with a large rodent for breakfast.
As for my bedroom view, indeed the view from the front of the Laughing Badger Gallery, it is a lovely pastoral vista that changes by the minute, big skies of 100 shades, clouds and sunsets smudging red and pink, while a filigree of shredded mist often hangs like a necklace over the trees.
As I mentioned earlier, cattle and horses can be seen near Mollie Moss’s farmhouse on the horizon most days, catching the first or the last of the sun, and in the middle distance are a series of patchwork allotments and the old mill lodge with its resident coots, moorhens, tufted ducks and snipe.
In the foreground, a chestnut tree and telegraph pole, both playing host to a number of different birds including jackdaw, long-tailed tit, starling, tawny owl, little owl, wood pigeon, collared dove, blackbird and mistle thrush.
Perhaps best of all, is the fox who, with a big dose of ‘I don’t give a monkeys’, traverses the hill right to left at a 45 degree angle, through the bushes and along the side of the farm before blowing over the stone wall like a ribbon.
●● The picturesque landscape of snow-covered fields looking from the Laughing Badger Gallery