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

Guards in a Forest Clearing

1607
Oil on oak, 33 x 42 cm
Staatliche Museen, Kassel

In a clearing among the trees is a group of men in contemporary dress, armed with lances and muskets. Three have horses, and one rider has dismounted to urinate. The others chat together, one leaning on a tree-trunk, one on a musket. Behind them in the background two figures sit peacefully under a tree, while a couple of peasants walk across the clearing with a goat. Here we see the use as 'background' of figures which the artist has already painted elsewhere, a practice typical of Brueghel. They enliven a landscape which seems to recede continuously into the distance, without any distinct breaks between foreground and background, leading the eye all the way to the distant church.