Codpiece and Close-Stool

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

The wedding feast

A designer, engraver and a publisher were involved in the creation of an engraving. Who do you think designed this print?

The inscription P.Brvegel.Invent tells us that Pieter Bruegel the Elder was the deviser (inventor) of this print. Bruegel designed many prints. This print was not published until after his death.

The print was published by Aux Quatre Vents (In the Four Winds) by Hiëronymus Cock and his wife Volcxken, Bruegel’s regular publishers.

The engraving was made by Pieter van der Heyden. The monogram PAME refers to Petrus a Merica, a Latin variant of his name. Van der Heyden frequently made engravings to designs by Bruegel, but also after work by other artists like Bosch.

The peasant wedding dance is a frequent theme in Bruegel’s work. Can you see the bride?

The bride can be recognized by the crown on her head and the ceremonial cloth hanging behind her. The inscription states that she is 'vol en soete' – heavily pregnant. This is highly likely because people in the country sometimes lived together before they got married.

On her right a cradle and a child’s close-stool are being brought in as wedding presents. A close-stool is a portable toilet consisting of a chamber pot enclosed by a covered wooden stool.

It was customary to give newlyweds household goods as gifts. Here a stool, a skimmer, a broom and spindles are being carried inside.

Money was often given at the wedding too. As a guest you were obliged to give a gift even if you were poor.

There is a happy atmosphere In the foreground four peasant couples dance to bagpipe music. On the extreme right other couples intimately embrace.

The peasants seem to have dressed in their best clothes. There is not a tear or a stain to be seen.
Today we know little about 16th-century dress – hardly any peasant clothing has survived.

The wild dancing has revealed this woman’s purse. Normally it would be safely hidden beneath her skirt.

In the 16th century more emphasis was placed on men’s crotches. The codpiece was padded and stuck out in front. You could even keep a handkerchief or money in it!

The peasant wedding is one of the best-known subjects in Bruegel’s oeuvre in which peasants play the star role.

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