A Dutch Museum Has Organized a Rare Family Reunion for the Brueghel Art Dynasty—And the Female Brueghels Are Invited to the Party

The show will will reunite five generations of the Brueghel family.

Jan Brueghel the Elder, Allegory on Painting (c.1625 - 1630). Photo courtesy of JK Art Foundation.

Connoisseurs have learnt to differentiate “the Elder” Brueghel painters from “the Younger” generation and many have their preferences for the work of family scion Pieter Breugel the Elder. But this fall, art lovers are invited to enjoy all the members of this Old Masters dynasty as they are reunited for a new survey spanning an incredible five generations at the Het Noordbrabants Museum in the Netherlands.

Roughly spanning the years 1550-1700, some 80 paintings will chart how one family of outsize artistic talent managed to keep innovating throughout the Dutch Golden Age. The exhibition will explore intergenerational familial connections and influences while also elaborating on the wider network of cultural activity, from significant artists like David Teniers the Younger who married into the family to the wider historical context of colonialism and global trade.

Jan Brueghel the Elder, Vase of Flowers with Jewel, Coins, and Shells (1606). Photo courtesy of Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan.

Standout masterpieces by Pieter Bruegel the Elder include The Magpie on the Gallows (1568), his The Beggars of the same year which is travelling from the Louvre in Paris and a rare public glimpse of The Drunkard Pushed into the Pigsty (1557) from a private collection in New York.

In other cases, close study of detailed miniatures on an intimate scale will introduce visitors to the tiny worlds built up by Jan Brueghel the Elder and his grandson Jan van Kessel the Elder, who he greatly inspired.

Audiences can also expect to be introduced to some less famous names, including women members of the family like the artist Mayken Verhulst. Mother-in-law to Pieter Brueghel the Elder, she played an active role in the education of her grandsons Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder.

Her own practice, too ofter overshadowed by their achievements, included miniature illustrations and watercolours. She was named one of the four most important female artists of the region in Lodovico Guicciardini’s book Description of the Low Countries (1567).

Brueghel: The Family Reunion” opens at Het Noordbrabants Museum on September 30 until January 7, 2024.

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