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

The Painter and the Buyer

c. 1565
Pen and black ink on brown paper, 255 x 215 mm
Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna

In this amusing sketch Bruegel commented upon the relationship between artist and client. The half-length figure of a painter at work dominates the composition. With brush poised at his right hand, he stares intently at the picture before him. His concentration is unwavering while the act in creating. Behind him stands a second man, probably a merchant, who is obviously captivated by the unseen picture. His hand reflexively reaches for his coin purse as he seeks to acquire the picture. Unlike the clear-eyed painter, the connoisseur's sight is weak. He requires spectacles, which were often used in contemporary art to signify the wearer's physical or mental nearsightedness. That is, the painter and the collector are not seeing the same artistic vision. Both are caricatures: the 'Bohemian' artist with his wild hair and anti-social qualities versus the thin-lipped, perceptually challenged patron who does not recognize that the painting is still not finished.