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

Christ Carrying the Cross (detail)

Oil on oak panel
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Bruegel's treatment of landscape evolves in the course of his career from the bird's-eye views and extensive landscapes of the Large Landscape series to the remarkable naturalism of the Months. Impossibly sheer outcrops of rock like this one characterize the landscape tradition of the Antwerp school founded by Joachim Patenier. Patenier's followers - in particular Herri met de Bles, Matthys Cock (the brother of Bruegel's print publisher, Hieronymus) and Cornelis Massys - had turned his style into a popular but stale formula. The sequence of Bruegel's landscape drawings and of the landscape in his paintings shows the gradual abandonment of this formula. In this case, however, his desire to convey the rocky, unfamiliar terrain of the Holy Land causes him to fall back on the ready-made landscape features of the Antwerp school.