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

Christ Carrying the Cross (detail)

Oil on oak panel, width of detail 36 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

With the exception of Christ himself, the figures in the procession wear contemporary dress, and there can be no doubt that Bruegel meant his representation of the scene to have a particular reference to his own day. The sacred figures - the fainting Virgin assisted by St John and the other two Maries (only one of whom is shown here, on the right) - are separated from the main events by being placed on a small, rocky plateau. They act out their own, apparently independent, drama, largely unnoticed by the figures behind them. Larger than the background figures and isolated from them, the Virgin and her companions occupy a separate, timeless world, clearly removed from the contemporary world and yet having the most profound significance for it.