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

Travellers on the Way

Oil on copper, 22 x 30 cm
Rockox House, Antwerp

Pieter Bruegel had two sons, Pieter the Younger and Jan the Elder, both of whom were painters. Both worked in Antwerp at the turn of the 16th century, but their work is so different from each other that they offer yet another example of the various movements which existed side by side at the time. A number of their father's paintings contain folklore elements which must have interested many collectors and prompted them to purchase such works. This would explain why Pieter the Younger copied or made variations on so many of them.

Jan was a far more gifted artist. As was the case with his father, his many years in Italy had little influence on his down-to-earth Flemish art, but he lacked his father's broad, dramatic vision and expressive power. Building on his talent as a miniaturist, he confined himself mainly to small scenes, producing countless views of village streets, canals, resting places in the forest and so on. As in Travellers on the Way, he depicted a variety of human activities drawn from everyday life, with a sharp eye for the most minute details and a great feeling for the subtleties of fine technique. He was also the most important flower painter of his time, and the first to make a painting of a vase of flowers a genre in its own right.