BRUEGEL, Pieter the Elder
(b. ca. 1525, Brogel, d. 1569, Brussel)

Storm at Sea

Oil on panel, 71 x 97 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Storm at Sea is one of Bruegel's last paintings. It is unfinished and, like so many of his works, defies unambiguous interpretation. On the one hand, we see ships threatened by a storm - man not as master of Nature, in other words, but as its victim. On the other hand, the sailors have poured oil onto the water to calm the sea, and have sacrificed a barrel from their cargo to distract the mighty whale. Yet the barrel could be interpreted that animals - meaning mankind - allow themselves to be distracted by something of little importance, instead of pursuing that which really matters.