Peasant Wedding Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/1530–1569) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Peasant Wedding: Are You a Boy or a Girl?

It’s interesting this prompt came today, because just Saturday I was bouncing around the question of what is my favorite painting? I’m reading The Gardner Heist, about the paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990, and it’s probably one of the most infuriating things I’ve ever read. I challenge anyone to read it and not find it infuriating.

Anyway, it made me think about what painting I would be heartbroken/murderously enraged if anything were to happen to it, and it’s the first work I ever think of when I even think the word painting: Bruegel’s Peasant Wedding.

I love this painting. I think it’s partly because of the colors and partly because everything in it is so…round. I don’t know why but I really like round things.

And look how much roundness there is here: the bowls of stuff that kind of look like pumpkin pies at first glance, being carried by people wearing round hats, the round stripey thing hanging on the back wall, the pitchers at the bottom left, the child with the hat licking something off a plate, the guy with round knees playing the bagpipe-like instrument. Everything is round.

Even the door that the pumpkin pie-like things are being carried on has rounded edges.

So yeah, lots and lots of roundy goodness. And pitchers. I like pitchers too, for some reason, and I love the fact that the perspective on the beer the guy at left is pouring seems to be a bit off—flattened or something. In fact, the liquid is about the only thing in the picture that doesn’t look round!

All the prompt said was “what if your favorite painting came to life?” so I had to think, would it come alive simply where it is, which would be far far away from me in Vienna and I’d hear about via the interwebs; or would it come alive whilst I was standing in front of it? Obvious answer.

So if I were standing in front of this painting at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (yes, please) and it came alive, here is what I would do:

I would take advantage of the opportunity to find out what the pumpkin-pie things are: stew? porridge? cakes? pumpkin pie? What do they taste like?

But more importantly, my most burning question could finally be answered: to the central figure in this painting, the person in blue with the sweet red hat: are you a boy or a girl?

I know you’re a dude, based on your clothes, your manly hands, and the fact that you’re carrying that huge heavy-looking door laden with pumpkin pie-colored liquid that you’re being careful not to tip and spill.

But the reason I was first ever drawn to this painting is that for a very long time I thought you were a burly teenage girl with short hair, and this stirred feelings of feminist pride within me: “Hey look! A teenage girl as the subject of an important painting from 1567! And doing a man’s job, no less!”

I don’t know why I thought this, since all the women in the picture are wearing those drapey white hair-covering bonnets, except for the the bride, who sits with flowing hair under the festive round stripey thing hanging on the wall.

But still, I really want to know what you look like. And to borrow your hat for a few—dare I say it?—selfies.

Also, can I have some of that beer?

4 comments

  1. moondustwriter · June 9

    Love the way you discuss this painting. I always enjoyed it because there was so much living going on in this painting. If my memory serves me correctly, I wrote an essay on this work. Would have loved your input at the time – I could have had some fun with the “roundy thingies” even if it didn’t improve my grade. :)

    • Jenny · June 9

      When in doubt, call on the roundy goodness!

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