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

Gloomy Day (February)

Oil on panel, 118 x 163 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

This is the second panel in the series of the Months painted by Bruegel for Niclaes Jonghelinck. This painting alludes to February which is shown as a dark, stormy month during which the peasants gather wood for their fires.

The paper crown on the boy's head refers to Epiphany, the Festival of the Three Magi; waffles were commonly consumed at carnival time prior to Lent. Following the custom at this season, willow branches are being cut for the construction of walls and fences. The mountains in the background demonstrate the threatening proximity of cold and snow; a further source of threat can be seen in the storm whipping up the waves and causing ships to sink. The Netherlanders were a seafaring people; they knew how dangerous the winter months are at sea. Water, mountains and the near intimacy of the foreground are held together by the picture's particular coloration. The towering trees in the middle serve to anchor the agitated landscape.