Years ago, while visiting the National Gallery of Denmark, I was stopped in my tracks as I came across a painting identified as a Bruegel the Elder work. I wasn’t floored so much for the painting’s beauty, but my mouth hung open because I had never seen it or heard of it before. The painting, “Christ Driving the Money-Lenders From the Temple,” was listed in none of my many Bruegel monographs. How could this be? I wondered. How can a museum hang a work and call it “Bruegel” when everyone else in the world doesn’t agree that it is a Bruegel?
Currently a fascinating exhibit covering the painting is underway. Tracing Bosch and Bruegel: Four Paintings Magnified investigates four similar paintings that are done in the Bosch style, which was also emulated by Bruegel in his earlier paintings. The exhibit seeks to answer the questions of who painted the works and when were they painted. Further, how did these four very different paintings of essentially the same scene come to hang in the three galleries and one private collection?
While my specific question regarding the labeling of the Copenhagen painting isn’t answered in the exhibit, it does provide countless other fascinating details. You can learn more about the exhibit at the excellent website: http://www.bosch-bruegel.com. The creators of the website should be applauded at their exceptional work. While I am not likely to see the exhibit in any of the locations to which it travels, I feel as if I have experienced it due to the wealth of information provided on the web. In addition, at least two conferences and a monograph are planned around the exhibitions, with further interesting information certainly to be revealed.
I’ve really enjoyed reading the Twitter feed as the exhibit came together. Hannah Tempest did an excellent job tweeting the process of cleaning and restoration, and providing highly interesting images.
The questions remains – after the exhibit and the Copenhagen painting travels back to the National Gallery – will it still be labeled as “Bruegel?”
I’m interested to hear from folks who have seen the exhibit first hand. What was it like?