BRUEGHEL, Jan the Elder
(b. ca. 1568, Bruxelles, d. 1625, Antwerpen)

A Flemish Fair

1610s
Oil on copper, 47,6 x 68,6 cm
Royal Collection, Windsor

In his monograph on Brueghel, Ertz divides the numerous landscapes in the oeuvre into seven types on the basis of composition. The Flemish Fair belongs to the fourth type or Nah-Fern-Landschaft (literally, 'near-far-landscape'), which the artist employed from 1600-19. Such compositions incorporate a specific scene in the foreground connected with an enclosed space, which in the present painting is a village dominated by a church, balanced on the other side by a distant view. Comparable pictures of this type listed by Ertz are Landscape with a Pack Train and A Busy Country Road (Munich, Alte Pinakothek). Brueghel's achievement is to have depicted a continuous landscape, with meticulously observed details on the left (note the birds visible in the branches of the trees) complemented by the superbly handled atmospheric blue tones that evoke a landscape of melting beauty on the right. The vigorous characterisation of the figures in the foreground recalls the work of the artist's father, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, but it is interesting to observe that several sections of society are represented and not just peasants.