Brussels and Antwerp celebrates the 450th birthday of Pieter Bruegel

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Pieter Bruegel, the Elder is born around 1525 near the present Dutch city of Breda. Although during his lifetime, his fame never equaled that of the great Italian masters, he is today considered one of the greatest masters of Flemish painting, with Van Eyck, Bosch, and Rubens.

While little is known about the life of Pieter Bruegel, much can be said by studying his paintings and examining the times he lived in. Clearly fascinated by nature, humanity and humour, he doesn’t quite fit the mold of one or another ‘type’ of artist. This makes him a true enigmatic figure.

On the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the death of Pieter Bruegel celebrated in 2019, several organisations invite you to rediscover this major figure of the Flemish Renaissance. He began painting in a workshop in Antwerp and in 1551 joined the Guild of Saint Luke, a corporation of painters, sculptors and printers. After having been an engraver, then a printmaker, he made a trip to Italy which he returned with many drawings. However, he does not start painting until quite late: his first painting is dated 1553. Bruegel revolutionized landscape painting, and his scenes of peasant life made him famous. He painted his landscape as a very complex construction, composed of various ingeniously assembled shots, and hundreds of little characters teeming with life. Bruegel’s works also witness an era of violence: that of rebellion against the Spaniards and Protestant iconoclasm. Large paintings like The Fall of the Rebel Angels (1562) or The Triumph of Death testify to his pessimistic view of human existence
Bruegel came to Brussels in 1563 and settled in the Quartier de la Chapelle, an elite area at the time. The city and the Pajottenland, a Flemish Brabant region close to the capital, incidentally inspired a large portion of his work. Also, in 2019, numerous organisations will schedule guided visits around Bruegel and all of the places associated with him, as well as the fascinating period in which he lived.

For more information, visit:

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts are offering a virtual exhibition dedicated to the hidden side of the master’s work:

These three masterpieces are a testimony to his great talent.

The Fall of the Rebel Angels

The Fall of the Rebel Angels (c)KMSKB, photo J. Geleyns-Ro scan s

‘The Fall of the Rebel Angels’ is perhaps Bruegel’s most literal representation of a world in complete turmoil. The work depicts the very first confrontation between good and evil, even before Adam and Eve’s fall from grace. 

Collection: Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium 
Copyright: ©KMSKB, photo: J. Geleyns / Ro scan

Mad Meg

Mad Meg © Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerpen

It depicts bizarre ruins, monstrous creatures, people fighting, a scorching glow and a woman, wearing armour, brandishing a sword as she rushes forward. She is Mad Meg, of course, and in the farces in Bruegel’s era, her name was synonymous of a virago. 

Collection: museum Mayer van den Bergh
Copyright: ©Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp

Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap

Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap (c)KMSKB, photo J. Geleyns-Ro scan

The painting depicts a winter landscape of a Brabant village and river, and is a predecessor of the 17th-century Dutch winter landscapes. 

Collection: Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium 
Copyright: ©KMSKB, photo: J. Geleyns / Ro scan

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