Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish, Breda (?) ca. 1525–1569 Brussels)
Pen and black-brown ink on white-prepared partially carved block of applewood
Overall: 10 3/8 x 16 3/8 x 1 1/8 in. (26.4 x 41.6 x 2.9 cm)
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1932
On view at The Met Breuer on Floor 3
This remarkable drawing represents a group of street performers putting on a comic folk play, The Dirty Bride (De Vuile Bruid) on the occasion of Shrovetide, the three days before Ash Wednesday. The coarse, bedraggled bride being led from a shabby nuptial tent is Nisa, while the prancing groom who leads her out is Mopsus. The account of their marriage derives from the Eighth Eclogue of the Roman poet Virgil, but also appeared in several contemporary books of proverbs, in which it was used to indicate a world turned upside down. In this print after Bruegel's drawing, which was engraved by Pieter van der Heyden and published by Hieronymus Cock in 1570, a Latin inscription was added below the image that translates "Mopsus marries Nisa, what may not we lovers hope for"—i.e., anything can happen. The learned members of Bruegel's and Cock's audience surely would have appreciated the association of the ancient quotation with a contemporary folk custom at Shrovetide, the season of festivity just before Lent. The drawing was originally meant to serve as the design for a woodcut but, for an unknown reason, the carving of the block was abandoned after cutting in the upper left corner was carried out. Presumably it was Bruegel's death in 1569 that brought the design into the publisher's hands and to fruition as an engraving.
Blasius Höfel (1792–1863); F. J. Gsell; Carl Kayser; Theodor von Frimmel; Albert Figdor; Vendor: Gustav Nebehay (Berlin and Vienna, 1881–1935)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. "Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible," March 18, 2016–September 4, 2016.
Van Bastelaer and Hulin de Loo 1907, no. 217
Ivins 1933, pp. 5-6
Munz 1961, no. 153
Berlin 1975, no. 99
Marijnissen en al. 1988, p. 290, no. 79
Mielke 1996, no. 65
Rotterdam/MMA 2001, no. 111
Réné van Bastelaer Peter Bruegel l'ancien, son oeuvre et son temps; étude historique, suivie des catalogues raisonnés de son oeuvre dessiné et gravé. Brussels, 1907, cat. no. 217.
William M. Ivins Jr. A Woodblock by Brueghel. in Metropolitan Museum Studies. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. 5, no.1, August 1934, p. 116, ill.
Ludwig Münz The Drawings of Bruegel Complete edition. London, 1961, cat. 153; pl. 150, ill.
Christian M. Nebehay, Vienna Die Goldenen Sessel meines Vaters: Gustav Nebehay (1881-1935), Antiquar und Kunthändler in Leipzig, Wien und Berlin. Vienna, 1983, fig. no. 165, ill.
Hans Mielke Pieter Bruegel: die Zeichnungen. 1996, cat. no. 65, ill.
Nadine Orenstein Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Drawings and Prints. Exh. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2001.
Manfred Sellink Bruegel: The Complete Paintings, Drawings and Prints. Mauro Lucco, Christopher Brown, Till-Holger Borchert, The Classical Art Series, 2007, cat. no. 155, ill.