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Golden Age. Dutch art in Odessa: Bruegel or not Bruegel?

28 Sep, 2021
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Golden Age. Dutch art in Odessa: Bruegel or not Bruegel?

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The collection of the Odessa Museum of Eastern and Western Art contain valuable works of Dutch masters: paintings, engravings, original drawings, and Delft faience. In this article, we will tell you about the painting in the museum's depository which was considered as the copy of the masterpiece of Pieter Bruegel the Elder.


The painting was received in 1924 from the Kherson Museum of Local Lore as a copy of the famous work of the famous Dutch artist of the 16th century Pieter Bruegel the Elder "The Blind" (stored in Naples, in the Museo di Capodimonte).

The research revealed that the museum painting belonged to Princess Nadezhda Svyatopolk-Mirskaya until 1919 and was kept in her collection in the estate of Zolota Balka in the Kherson province. In the museum catalogues of 1937 and 1973, the painting was already attributed to Pieter Bruegel the Younger, the son of Brueghel the Elder. Indeed, Brueghel the Younger's creative work to take a copy of his father's robot and his copy of "The Blind" from the Louvre in Paris is widely known.

It is difficult to call the Odessa painting a copy - it is a free interpretation of the famous painting, because it has many details that are not in the original: with a certain similarity of the compositional scheme, there is a different interpretation of the blind, their faces and clothes and background.

"The Blind" by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1568
The painting reflects Bruegel's mastery of observation. Each figure has a different eye affliction, including corneal leukoma, atrophy of globe and removed eyes. The men hold their heads aloft to make better use of their other senses. Bruegel painted The Blind the year before his death
.

Brueghel the Elder wrote his "Blind" (1568) based on the Biblical parable of the blind leading the blind from the Gospel of Matthew 15;14 :

Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides [of the blind]. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.

Gospel of Matthew 15;14

During the restoration in 2016, an amazing discovery was made: in the right part of the composition, the image of a flock of sheep turned out to be a late entry. Underneath there was something completely different: a religious Catholic procession and people on their knees nearby. These important details change the ideological content of the picture.

Bruegel the Elder's "the blind" symbolizes the blindness of humanity, which does not want to follow the teachings of Christ. In the museum painting, its author draws a parallel between the blind who are going to their deaths and the people who worship Catholic priests and the attributes of Catholic worship.

"The Blind"
Dutch artist, 17th century, oil on panel, 77x128
Odessa Musum of Western and Eastern Art

Thus, the echoes of religious confrontation in the Netherlands were embodied here, as a result of which Protestant doctrine prevailed in the Netherlands. Who and when painted on top of the procession of sheep in the manner of an idyllic landscape - is unknown, but we can conclude: the picture is an independent work of an unknown Dutch artist of the 17th century, based on a painting by Peter Brueghel the Elder "Blind".

The time of creation and characteristic techniques of Dutch painting were confirmed by the technical and technological research that was done in the research department of the Odessa branch of the National Research and Restoration Center of Ukraine.


The Odessa Journal

The Odessa Journal

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