Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish, 1525–1569)
The Wedding Dance, c. 1566
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, father of the Bruegel dynasty of artists, produced only a few dozen paintings, making works such as The Wedding Dance exceptionally rare. His scenes of peasant life depict a world unfamiliar to the 16th-century ruling classes: folk alive with raucous celebration, joyful lust, music, dance, and a fair bit of drinking.
This painting, once assumed lost, was rediscovered in 1930 by the director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, who purchased it for the museum. At some point over the centuries, the men’s costumes had been modified with “modesty overpainting,” removed during a 1942 restoration that returned Bruegel’s masterpiece to its original color and form, seen here.