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The Saint Michael Tavern is a fully independent composition by Pieter Brueghel II.
The painter, previously perceived as an imitator or even a copyist of the famous father, Pieter Bruegel I (1526/1530–1569), from around 1616 begins to look for his own creative path and creates individual compositions, not referring to earlier patterns. We know this not only because its prototype has not yet been found among the known works of his father. The spelling of the signature on the painting - BREVGHEL, instead of – BRVEGHEL as before – is also interpreted as an attempt to distance himself from the artistic achievements of Pieter Bruegel I.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger was an astute observer of everyday life, recreating it with exceptional pleasure down to the smallest detail. His compositions, although not devoid of elements of humour and satire, differ from the moralising works of his father. St Michael’s Inn is a perfect example of such a way of showing the surrounding world. The painter records the life of the Flemish province in its many aspects; he observes what is happening in front of a country inn. Brueghel also took care to show the detail of the façade of the building itself, where he painted ten coats of arms – of which we recognise, among others, the coat of arms of the Habsburg Empire, the city of Antwerp, the lion of the Duchy of Brabant, the griffin of the county of Flanders, three lilies of the kings of France, and the emblem of the painting guild at the entrance. The painting guild is a kind of ‘association’ of artists-craftsmen dealing with painting.
The painting is one of several versions of the composition that the painter repeated at least nine times. These paintings were created in the years 1619–1634; four of them are dated and only two unsigned. The composition in the Wawel collection is distinguished among them by its high artistic level.

Prepared on the basis of a text by dr Joanna Winiewicz-Wolska.

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