The democratic and national features of Netherlands art in the middle of the sixteenth century are revealed most strikingly in the oeuvre of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525-1569). There are no works by this artist in Russian collections. One can get an idea of the great master's work from that of his eldest son Pieter Brueghel the Younger (c. 1564-1638), who had neither the strong talent of his father, nor the poetic gift of his younger brother Jan. He painted pictures of his own, but spent most of his life together with his assistants making copies of his father's works and producing pictures from his father's drawings. Thanks to the efforts of Pieter Brueghel the Younger we possess copies of non-extant originals by his great father. These include "Peasants Brawling at Cards". Pieter Bruegel the Elder was the founder of the peasant genre in the art of the Netherlands.
His "Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap and Skaters" became extremely popular (the original is in Brussels). More than a dozen known reproductions of it were made in the sixteenth century and later). The work reveals the most important features of Pieter Bruegel the Elder's innovations in landscape painting.
The painting is based on a view of a real place, which is thought to be the Brabant village of Fed Saint Anne near Diben. The inhabitants of this snow-covered village are real people living in a real corner of nature. The artist conveys the winter countryside beautifully: the slight mist by the church, the motionless, bare branches, and the finches in the snow. At the same time Bruegel's landscape invites reflections on the complexity of the world. Thanks to the artist the village on a river bank is enclosed in a panorama of broad expanses with the view of a town on the horizon. The picture also has a didactic message: the traps are ready to catch the unsuspecting birds, and the carefree skaters might fall down a hole in the ice that no one appears to have noticed.