Welcome to day eight of our Art Blogmas 2021. Today we’re hosting an exciting painting made by Pieter Bruegel the Elder – The Census at Bethlehem.
Art Blogmas 2021
Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a Renaissance painter who lived in Flanders during the 16th century. He is well known for his detailed paintings filled with many characters. A few weeks ago, I had a chance to see this painting at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels, and I have fallen in love with it all over again.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Census at Bethlehem
Where is it? Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium (Brussels)
Pieter Bruegel painted The Census at Bethlehem in 1566. It’s quite a unique artwork because it’s one of the first paintings in art history, with a large portion dedicated to the winter landscape.
Bruegel has set up the Biblical scene in a contemporary environment. We can see Mary and Joseph in the middle of the 16th century Flemish village. Gabled houses and typical Belgian architecture don’t quite belong to the Bible.
However, Bruegel isn’t showing a specific Flemish village. He is combining the architecture from different places. The ruins of the castle in the background resemble the gates and towers of Amsterdam.
At the entrance to the house on the left, where Mary and Joseph are heading, has the Habsburg coat of arms above its gates. Belgium at that time was under the rule of the Spanish branch of the Habsburg family. Thus, Bruegel is making political connotations about foreign government within his painting.
As always, he’s filling the painting with many different characters and a lot of symbolism. We can find them all in this painting, from children playing and enjoying the winter activities to the threat of leprosy.
If you don’t want to miss other paintings I will share with you in this year’s Art Blogmas, be sure to check in here tomorrow at 7:30 am. Or, follow along on the Culture Tourist Facebook page and Instagram profile.