The Wedding Dance is a splendid example of Bruegel's fascination with the peasant life of his native land. Public and private holidays and festivals provided him with typical situations and characters for his paintings. Here the wedding guests are very simply modeled, the positions of their arms and legs somewhat exaggerated to make the dancers look more awkward and more rustic. Although a modern audience might see this panel primarily as a genre painting, Bruegel's contemporaries would have noted its moralizing overtones: frenzied dance and lustful behavior could lead to sin and damnation.
Artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Netherlandish, 1525-1569
  • The Wedding Dance
Date ca. 1566
Medium oil on wood panel
Dimensions Unframed: 47 × 62 inches (119.4 × 157.5 cm)
Framed: 57 1/4 × 72 × 3 1/2 inches (145.4 × 182.9 × 8.9 cm)
Credit Line City of Detroit Purchase
Accession Number 30.374
Department European Painting
On View European: Medieval and Renaissance W230, Level 2 (see map)
Signed Signed and dated, lower right: • M • D L X V I | B R V E G E L
Marks Printed paper label, upper left, verso: No. 71 | Picture
Painted, upper right, verso: 30.374
Handwritten paper label, middle right, verso: 17385
England, Private Collection;
London, Arthur J. Sulley (dealer);
purchased by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA), 1930-present
"Dance of the Peasants." Art News 28, no. 40 (September 13, 1930): p. 5 (ill.).

Heil, Walter and Clyde H. Burroughs. Catalogue of Paintings in the Permanent Collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts of the City of Detroit. Detroit, 1930, unpaginated, no. 22 (ill.).

Turkel-Deri, Flora. "Valentiner Buys Fine Breughel." Art News 28, no. 39 (August 16, 1930): pp. 3, 20.

Valentiner, W. R. "The Wedding Dance by Pieter Bruegel the Elder." Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 12, no. 2 (November 1930): 16–19, pp. 16-19 (ill.).

Valentiner, W. R. "Pieter Bruegel, A Painter of the People and Antonio Moro, a Painter of the Court: Part One." Art in America 19, no. 3 (April 1931): 101–121, pp. 117 (ill.), 120.

Valentiner, W. R. "Pieter Bruegel, A Painter of the People and Antonio Moro, a Painter of the Court: Part Two." Art in America 19, no. 4 (June 1931): 149–166, pp. 162. [dated 1666]

Glück, Gustav. Bruegels Gemälde. Vienna, 1932, pp. 53–54, no. 24 (ill.).

Rich, Daniel Catton et al. Century of Progress Exhibition. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago, 1933, p. 6, no. 34 (ill.).

Tolnay, Charles de. Pierre Bruegel l'Ancien. Brussels, 1935, vol. 1: pp. 92–93, no. 40; vol. 2: pl. 149 (ill.).

Houtart, Mme. la Baronne Albert and Mme. Feron-Fontaine. Cinq Siecles d’Art, vol. 1. Exh. cat., Brussels, 1935, p. 66, no. 137.

Delacre, Maurice. "Brueghel and Not Brueghel." Burlington Magazine 69, no. 402 (September 1936): 99–111, pp. 99–111 (ill.).

Richardson, E. P. Flemish Painting of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. Detroit, 1936, unpaginated, fig. 15 (ill.).

Friedländer, Max J. Die Altniederländische Malerei, vol.14. Leiden, 1937, pp. 30–31, 61, no. 34, pl. XXXII (ill.).

Jedlicka, Gotthard. Pieter Bruegel: Der Maler in seiner Zeit. Erlenbach-Zurich, 1938, p. 539. [as possibly by Pieter Bruegel the Elder]

Tietze, Hans, ed. Masterpieces of European Paintings in America. New York, 1939, pp. 147 (ill.), 319, no. 147.

Masterpieces of Art: Exhibition at the New York World’s Fair 1939. Exh. cat., New York World’s Fair. New York, 1939, addenda, p. 10, no. 28, pl. 46. [Included in "Revised and Enlarged Edition Complete Catalogue of the Paintings and Sculpture Masterpieces of Art (by galleries)"]

Art: Golden Gate International Exposition. Exh. cat., San Francisco, 1940, pp. 11, 33, cat. 129 (ill.).

Art of the United Nations. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago, 1944, p. 11 (ill.).

Richardson, E.P., ed. Catalogue of Paintings: The Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1944, p. 18, no. 22.

Vanbeselaere, Walther. Peter Bruegel: En het Nederlandsche Maniërisme. Tield, 1944, pp. 99, 106, pl. 66 (ill.).

40 Masterpieces: A Loan Exhibition of Paintings from American Museums [Fortieth Anniversary Exhibition]. Exh. cat., City Art Museum. St. Louis, 1947, pp. 18–19, cat. 2 (ill.).

Elst, J. van der. The Last Flowering of the Middle Ages. Garden City, N.Y., p. 114, pl. 7 (ill.). [French ed., L'Age d'or flamand. Paris, 1951, pp. 208, 220-221 (ill.).]

Rasmusen, H. N. Art Structure (A Text Book of Creative Design). New York, 1950, pp. 74-79 (ill.).

Chase, A. E. Famous Paintings. New York, 1951, p. 92 (ill.).

The City Beautiful. Detroit, 1951, p. 51.

"Wedding Dance by Pieter Brueghel." Time 58 (November 26, 1951).

"Letters: Fun in Flanders." Time 58, no. 25 (December 17, 1951): 4–5, pp. 4–5.

Denis, V. Tutta la pittura di Pieter Bruegel. Milan, 1952, pp. 23, 34, pls. 106–109 (ill.).

The World of Pieter Bruegel. Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1952, unpaginated, pls. 16, 17, 24 (ill.).

Genaille, R. Bruegel L'Ancien. Paris, 1953, pp. 46, 94, pl. 102 (ill.).

Glück, G., trans. M. Kay. The Large Bruegel Book, 5th ed. Vienna, 1953, pp. 74ff, no. 31.

Stechow, W. Bruegel. New York, 1954, unpaginated, pl. 10 (ill.).

Stridbeck, C.G. Bruegelstudien, Untersuchungen zu den ikonologischen Problemen bei Pieter Bruegel die Altere, sowie dessen Bezeihungen zum niederländischen Romanismus. Stockholm, 1956, pp. 218–220.

Byrnes, J.B. et al Masterpieces of Art, (exhibition in memory of W.R. Valentiner). Exh. cat., North Carolina Museum of Art. Raleigh,1959, p. 282, cat. 1 (ill.). [Suppl. no. L]

Moore, L. The First Book of Paintings. New York, 1960, pp. 54-55.

Wilenski, R. H. Flemish Painters 1430–1830, 2 vols. New York, 1960, p. 543. [as "Detroit Wedding Dance Painter"]

Pieter Bruegel the Elder Exhibition of Prints and Drawings. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles, 1961, no. 79 (ill.). [engraving after]

Denis, Valentin. All the Paintings of Pieter Bruegel. New York, 1961, pp. 23–24, 36, pls. 106–109 (ill.).

Wilenski, R. H. Flemish Painters, 1430–1830. New York, 1960, vol. 1: pp. 148, 543; vol. 2: pl. 404 (ill.). [as by Detroit Wedding Dance Painter]

Meijer, E.R. Pieter Bruegel. New York, 1962, pl. 13 (ill.).

Puyvelde, Leo van. La Peinture Flamande au Siècle de Bosch et Breughel. Paris, 1962, p. 126. [as by an imitator of Pieter Bruegel the Elder]

Robb, D. Art in the Western World. New York, 1963, p. 529, fig. 453 (ill.).

DeMille, Agnes de. The Book of the Dance. New York, 1963, p. 46 (ill.).

Scheyer, Ernst. "The Wedding Dance by Pieter Bruegel the Elder in the Detroit Institute of Arts: Its Relations and Derivations." The Art Quarterly 28, no. 3 (1965): 167–193, pp. 167–193 (ill.).

Grossman, F. Peter Bruegel, Complete Edition of the Paintings, 2nd ed. London, 1966, p. 200ff, pl. 121 (ill.). [3rd ed., rev. 1973, pp. 199-200, pls. 125, 134]

Richardson, E.P. Treasures from the Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1966, pp. 7, 122 (ill.).

Bianconi, Piero. The Complete Paintings of Bruegel. New York, 1967, pp. 12, 104–105, 107, no 41. (ill.).

Myers, Bernard S., ed. Art and Civilization. London, 1967, p. 268, no. 439.

Cuttler, Charles D. Northern Painting: From Pucelle to Bruegel/Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Centuries. New York, 1968, pp. 481–482 (ill.).

Legend. London, 1968, p. 9 (ill.).

Kay, M. Bruegel: The Color Library of Art. Middlesex, 1969, p. 38 (ill.). [cover as "Wedding Dance in Open Air"]

Roberts-Jones, P. et al. Bruegel The Painter and His World. Exh. cat., Royal Museum of Fine Arts. Brussels, 1969, p. 76, cat. 34 (ill.).

Claessens, Bob and Jeanne Rousseau. Our Bruegel. Antwerp, 1969, pp. 138, pl. 37 (ill.); p. 196. [as "The Dance of the Bride"]

Exploring Music. New York, 1969, p. 33 (ill.).

Stechow, Wolfgang. Pieter Bruegel the Elder. New York, 1968, pp. 116–119, pls. 33, 34.

Marijnissen, R.H. Bruegel the Elder. Brussels, 1969, pp. 65, 113, n. 137.

Stechow, Wolfgang. Pieter Bruegel the Elder. New York, 1969, pp. 14–15 (ill.).

Myers, Bernard S., ed. "Pieter Brueghel (Bruegel) the Elder." In Encyclopedia of Painting: Painters and Painting of the World from Prehistoric Times to the Present Day. New York, 1970, p. 60 (ill.).

Cummings, Frederick J. and Charles H. Elam, eds. The Detroit Institute of Arts Illustrated Handbook. Detroit, 1971, p. 95, no. 13 (ill.).

Alpers, Svetlana. "Bruegel's Festive Peasants." Simiolus 6, no. 3/4 (1972–1973): 163–176, pp. 163–167 (ill.), 174–176 (ill.).

Burness, Donald B. "Pieter Bruegel: Painter for Poets." Art Journal 32, no. 2 (Winter 1972–1973): 157–162, pp. 159–161 (ill.).

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed., s.v. "Pieter Bruegel." Chicago, 1974, pp. 571 (ill.).

Friedländer, Max J. Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. 14. Leiden, 1976, pp. 27, 45, no. 34, pl. 42.

Gibson, Walter S. Bruegel. New York, 1977, pp. 159–168, fig. 115 (ill.); pp. 200, 204.

Morse, John D. Old Master Paintings in North America: Over 3000 Masterpieces by 50 Great Artists. New York, 1979, pp. 31–32.

Poli, Franco de and Edi Baccheschi. Bruegel. Milan, 1979, pp. 78–79 (ill.). [as "Danza nuziale all'aperto"]

Failing, Patricia. Best-Loved Art from America Museums. New York, 1983, pp. 16–17 (ill.).

Heinz-Mohr, G. "Das Leben - ein Kinderspiel." Du, Die Kunstzeitschrift 10 (1983): pp. 44-45 (ill.).

Mori, Yoko, ed. Bruegel. Les Grands Maitres de la Peinture 11. Tokyo, 1984, pp. 37, 86, no. 99 (ill.).

Henshaw, Julia P. 100 Masterworks from the Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 1985, pp. 100–101 (ill.).

Horowitz, Frederick A. More Than You See: A Guide to Art. New York, 1985, pp. 42, 45, fig. 5-17 (ill.).

Snyder, James. Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, the Graphic Arts from 1350 to 1575. New York, 1985, pp. 497–499, pl. 562 (ill.).

Marandel, J. Patrice. "A Valentiner Legacy: The Broad Stream of European Painting." Apollo 124, no. 298 (December 1986): 486–497, pp. 489, 491 (ill.).

Collobio Ragghianti, Licia. "Per Bruegel." Critica d'Arte 53, no. 18 (October–December 1988): 50–53, pp. 51–52 (ill.).

Liedtke, Walter. "'Peasants Fighting over Cards' by Pieter Bruegel and Sons." Artibus et Historiae 10, no. 19 (1989): 123–131, pp. 123, 130–131, nn. 4, 11.

Gibson, Walter S. Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Two Studies. Lawrence, 1991, pp. 10–17, fig. 1 (ill.); pp. 35–37 (ill.), p. 43.

Bauman, Guy C. and Walter A. Liedtke. Flemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp, 1992, pp. 138–140, no. 40 (ill.).

Fiero, Gloria K. The Humanistic Tradition, On the Threshold of Modernity: The Renaissance and the Reformation. Madison, 1992, pp. 78–79, fig. 18.13 (ill.). [see 2nd edition, p. 85; see 4th edition, pp. 87–88]

Hagen, Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen. Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c. 1525–1569: Peasants, Fools and Demons. Cologne, 1994, pp. 68–69, 75–77 (ill.).

Sullivan, Margaret A. Bruegel's Peasants: Art and Audience in the Northern Renaissance. Cambridge, 1994, pp. 48–49, fig. 38 (ill.); p. 108.

Alpers, Svetlana. The Making of Rubens. New Haven, 1995, pp. 7 (ill.), 10.

Westermann, Mariët. The Amusements of Jan Steen: Comic Painting in the Seventeenth Century. Zwolle, 1997, pp. 196–197, pl. 96 (ill.).

Fahy, Everett. "How the Pictures Got Here." In Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1998, pp. 63, 68.

Kavaler, Ethan Matt. Pieter Bruegel: Parables of Order and Enterprise. Cambridge, 1999, p. 2, 322, n. 1.

Vöhringer, Christian. Pieter Bruegel 1525/1530–1569. Cologne, 1999, pp. 90–91, fig. 95 (ill.), p. 113, fig. 120 (ill.).

Majzels, Claudine. "'The Man with Three Feet' in Pieter Bruegel the Elder's 'Peasant Wedding'" Canadian Art Review 27, no. 1/2 (2000): 46–58, pp. 46–47 (ill.), 50.

De Firma Brueghel. Exh. cat., Bonnefantenmuseum. Maastricht, 2001, p. 55.

Old Master Paintings. Sales cat., Christie's, London, December 11, 2002, p. 61.

Jan Miense Molenaer Painter of the Dutch Golden Age. Exh. cat., North Carolina Museum of Art. Raleigh, 2002, p. 172 (ill.). [see cat. 35]

Koerner, Joseph Leo. "Unmasking the World: Bruegel's Ethnography." Common Knowledge 10, no. 2 (Spring 2004): 220–251, pp. 249–251 (ill.).

Gibson, Walter S. "Festive peasants before Bruegel: three case studies and their implications." Simiolus 31, no. 40 (2004–2005): 292–309, p. 293.

Silver, Larry. Peasant Scenes and Landscapes: the Rise of Pictorial Genres in the Antwerp Art Market. Philadelphia, 2006, pp. 117–119 (ill.), 200, 274, n. 41.

Sellink, Manfred. Bruegel: The Complete Paintings, Drawings and Prints. Bruges, 2007, pp. 33, 228–229 (ill.).

Stewart, Alison G. Before Bruegel: Sebald Beham and the Origins of Peasant Festival Imagery. Aldershot, 2008, pp. 299–301 (ill.).

Brueghel: Meraviglie dell'Arte Fiamminga, The Fascinating World of Flemish Art. Exh. cat., Chiostro del Bramante. Rome, 2012, p. 207. [see cat. 4]

Currie, Christina and Dominque Allart. The Brueg[H]el Phenomenon: Paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Pieter Brueghel the Younger with a Special Focus on Technique and Copying Practice. Brussels, 2012, vol. 1: pp. 40, 78, 244–245 (ill.), 263, 278–281 (ill.), 294, 297 (ill.), 315, n. 68; vol. 2: pp. 599, 603, 607–608, 612, n. 42; vol. 3: pp. 893, 895 (ill.).

Beal, Graham W.J. and Debra N. Mancoff. Treasures of the DIA. Detroit, 2015, pp. 6–7, 104, 108, no. 9.3, back cover (ill.).

Coelen, Peter van der and Friso Lammertse. De ontdekking van het dagelijks leven van Bosch tot Bruegel. Exh. cat., Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Rotterdam, 2015, pp. 221–222 (ill.).

Koerner, Joseph Leo. Bosch & Bruegel: From Enemy Painting to Everyday Life. Washington, 2016, pp. 328–329 (ill.).

Abt, Jeffrey. Valuing Detroit’s Art Museum: A History of Fiscal Abandonment and Rescue. Detroit, 2017, pp. xv, 48–49 (ill.).