(b. 1508, Amsterdam, d. 1575, Amsterdam)

Market Scene

Oil on wood, 170 x 82,8 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

Genre-painting, as an independent subject, originated in the Netherlands in the sixteenth century. Before then scenes from everyday life had often been depicted in the background of pictures with a primarily religious content, but it was only after about the middle of the sixteenth century that many painters began to feel their principal task was to represent everyday life for its own sake. With Pieter Bruegel the Elder, also called Peasant Bruegel, genre painting came to be generally accepted and found a great many adherents in the Netherlands. Pieter Aertsen, who was born in Amsterdam and worked mainly in his native city and in Antwerp, was one of the most eminent of these. Most of his works depict market vendors, scenes at fairs or kitchen interiors, with an abundance of carefully painted still-life motifs.

In this painting he depicts an old Dutch peasant taking his produce to the market, on his head a heavy tub, in his right hand a brace of mallard and a basket of eggs. A peasant girl in the background kneels by a tray of pasties or loaves. The painter has achieved an effect of monumentality by using large spots of colour and clear outlines and by enclosing his powerfully modelled figures within the confines of a narrow space. Aertsen's great virtue lies in his sincerity and simplicity, particularly noticeable if we compare his work with later genre-scenes.