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Pieter Bruegel

Return from the Inn


Pieter Bruegel
Brussels about 1564 – Antwerp about 1638


Return from the Inn


About 1620


Oil and tempera on wood


41.5 x 65 cm


Gift of the Maxwell family in memory of Mrs. Edward Maxwell, inv. 1955.1122


Western Art

The death of Pieter Bruegel the Elder did not mark the end of his family’s association with painting, as his sons Pieter and Jan entered the profession with equal success. Pieter the Younger specialized in subjects based on his father’s peasant scenes, testifying to their popularity more than fifty years after their inception. This painting contrasts the peaceful church, birds pecking in the snow and peasant workers going about their business in the background with the drunken brawls before the inn, and the wife berating her husband as she escorts him home. The foreground abounds in sexual symbolism: the sloppy attire and grasped sword of the young husband being caught, the pipes carried by the boy, and the slit tree trunk with a pole running through it would all have been readily interpreted by Bruegel’s contemporaries.

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