Famous for his landscapes and peasant scenes, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, was a Netherlandish Renaissance painter and printmaker. He gained experience in Italy and France before going to Antwerp, where he became a master in the painter's guild. The older Dutch master Hieronymus Bosch exercised the most influence on Bruegel's art. His major inspiration was drawn however directly from nature, which is evident in artworks like 'Landscape with the Fall of Icarus' (1558) or 'Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap' (1565). Although the Italianate style dominated in his times, Bruegel the Elder preferred a somewhat simpler form. He was the pioneer of Netherlandish genre painting because his main focus lay on village life, as seen, for instance, in 'Netherlandish Proverbs' (1559). He also created religious works like such as 'The Tower of Babel' (1563).


  • Title: The Dutch Proverbs
  • Creator: Pieter Bruegel the Elder
  • Date Created: 1559
  • Physical Dimensions: w163.0 x h117.0 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Medium: Oil on oak wood
  • Viewing notes: The picture brings together 100 proverbs and places them in surroundings that are as real as the people's behaviour, revealed in terse and apposite form by the wise sayings. The individual scenes are played out side by side, without being directly dependent on each other. A village near the sea provides a spacious stage for the apparently everyday tasks of its inhabitants. The background for all the varied activity is made up of a farmhouse, dilapidated huts, a stone bridge with pillory and tower, the village square at the centre of the activity and a farmstead among cornfields near the wood. In the distance is the open sea, shining in the sun of a late summer's day. The painting's old title 'The Upside-Down World' derives from the symbol of a globe standing on its head. This is intended to illustrate that we are in a world in which nothing is as it should be. The wise sayings are evidence of man's folly and sinfulness in a crazy world that has turned away from God. This proverb picture is evidence of Bruegel's intense pre-occupation with the spiritual and moral questions of his time, which give the work its timeless validity.
  • Style: Netherlandish
  • Inv. No.: 1720
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-017018
  • Copyright Text: Text: © http://www.prestel.com, Prestel Verlag / Rainald Grosshans Audio: © Tonwelt / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz
  • Collection: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist Place of Death: Brussels, Belgium
  • Artist Place of Birth: Breda, Netherlands
  • Artist Gender: male
  • Artist Dates: 1525/1569-09-09

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