Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish, ca. 1525–1569)
Engraving; first state of two
8 7/8 x 11 1/8 in. (22.5 x 28.3 cm)
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1926 (26.72.23)
Conceived of as one of a four-part series on the seasons, this image represents the activities traditionally associated with the summer months: fruit picking for June, hay harvesting for July, and corn harvesting for August. It complements the engraving of Spring (1570), the only other in the series to have been completed after Bruegel's design. Pieter van der Heyden did the engraving after Bruegel's drawing, in which figures were rendered left-handed so as to be right-handed in the reversed print image. Depictions of the seasons were common in Northern European manuscripts, paintings, and prints. Bruegel used his sharp eye for humorous detail and his pitch-perfect characterization to portray summer as a time of thirst-inducing, if somewhat disorganized, labor. The daring motif of having the foot of the enthusiastic drinker in the foreground overlap the lower border of the image serves to underscore the unbridled nature of his behavior. The actions of these peasant workers have the tendency, the image seems to suggest, to overstep the boundaries of proper habits or good taste. In the border below, the central portion of the inscription reads "Summer, image of youth," succinctly associating the progression of the seasons with the ages of man.