Bruegel the Elder mas­ter­pieces in Vi­enna world first

The Phnom Penh Post - - LIFESTYLE -

THE world’s first-ever mono­graph ex­hi­bi­tion ded­i­cated to 16th cen­tury Flem­ish master Pi­eter Bruegel the Elder opens Tues­day in Vi­enna, bring­ing to­gether half of all of his ex­tant works, or­gan­is­ers said.

Ahead of the 450th an­niver­sary of his death next year, the Kun­sthis­torisches Mu­seum (KHM) is host­ing an un­par­al­leled ex­hi­bi­tion of 27 of his paint­ings and 60 draw­ings and prints.

And it will no­tably re­unite for the first time two ver­sions of Bruegel’s iconic “Tower of Ba­bel” mas­ter­piece and four from his cy­cle of “Sea­sons”.

Bring­ing to­gether Bruegel’s mas­ter­pieces into a sin­gle ex­hi­bi­tion that has been six years in prepa­ra­tion was “some­thing of a mir­a­cle”, co-cu­ra­tor Sabine Penot told AFP.

Many of the in­ter­na­tional loans were so old and frag­ile that they hardly ever trav­elled and many of the works to go on show had never be­fore left their home­towns.

“Every­one knows Bruegel, whether it be from re­pro­duc­tions on cal­en­dars or on bis­cuit tins. But never be­fore have so many of his works been gath­ered in one place,” Penot said.

The KHM had some­thing of a head start, as it al­ready owned 12 Bruegel paint­ings, in­clud­ing one of the “Tower of Ba­bel”, “Peas­ant Wed­ding”, “Chil­dren’s Games” and three of the “Sea­sons”.

That was be­cause Bruegel’s works “were col­lected very early on by two mem­bers of the Hab­s­burg fam­ily, Arch­duke Ernest, who ruled the Nether­lands, and his brother, Em­peror Ru­dolf II”, said art his­to­rian Alice Hoppe-Harnon­court.

In 2012, the KHM be­gan an in-depth tech­ni­cal ex­am­i­na­tion of the paint­ings, us­ing X-ray and in­fra-red tech­nol­ogy, that had never pre­vi­ously been car­ried out on Bruegel’s works.

And from there, a num­ber of in­sti­tu­tions, par­tic­u­larly in Bel- gium, agreed to col­lab­o­rate for this ex­hi­bi­tion, Penot said.

‘Cine­mato­graphic field of vi­sion’

The show brings to­gether pieces from around 30 pri­vate and pub­lic col­lec­tions all over the world, from An­twerp and Madrid, to New York, Paris, Prague and Rot­ter­dam.

And among the high­lights is “Ado­ra­tion of the Kings in the Snow” from Win­terthur, which re­quired a spe­cial law to be able to leave Switzer­land, as well as “The Port of Naples” which was re­cently au­then­ti­cated af­ter be­ing re­stored in Rome.

Un­for­tu­nately, the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Mu­seum of New York de­cided not to loan the “Har­vesters” which would have rounded off the five “Sea­sons” paint­ings known to be still in ex­is­tence, said Penot.

An­other co-cu­ra­tor, Man­fred Sellink, di­rec­tor of the Royal Mu­seum of Fine Arts in An­twerp, Bel­gium, said Bruegel’s works con­tin­ued to fas­ci­nate be­cause “he suc­ceeds in por­tray­ing as­ton­ish­ingly pre­cise de­tail with a lit­er­ally cine­mato­graphic field of vi­sion”.

Par­al­lel to the real ex­hi­bi­tion is an ac­com­pa­ny­ing web­site, ht t p: / / www. i nsi debr uegel . net, which al­lows the user to zoom in on de­tails in the paint­ings that are not eas­ily vis­i­ble to the naked eye.

Al­ready fa­mous dur­ing his own life­time and the head of a long dy­nasty of painters, the pop­u­lar­ity of Bruegel (1525/301569) has come and gone across the cen­turies.

“In the 18th cen­tury, most of his work had been put into stor­age and was only re­ally re­dis­cov­ered at the be­gin­ning of the 20th cen­tury,” said Hoppe-Harnon­court.

“Ev­ery gen­er­a­tion has tried to un­ravel the mys­ter­ies of Bruegel, but none has re­ally suc­ceeded, since his work is so rich,” said Penot.


A vis­i­tor walks past an en­larged panel of a paint­ing dur­ing the open­ing of the ex­hi­bi­tion of the Flem­ish painter Pi­eter Bruegel the Elder at Kun­sthis­torisches Mu­seum in Vi­enna, Aus­tria, on Mon­day.

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