The Material World of Bruegel
This exhibition celebrates one of the DIA's most iconic paintings, Pieter Bruegel's The Wedding Dance (1566) on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the artist's death. The painting was considered a sensational discovery when it was acquired by the museum in 1930 and served as a source of inspiration for Diego Rivera when he was painting his Detroit Industry murals and remains one of the two major Bruegel paintings in an American collection.
Using the lens of art conservation, the exhibition will trace the life of the painting from its creation to the present, emphasizing its status as a material object, from its very free underdrawing and its thin paint application to the conservation treatments and restorations to which it has been subjected over time. Research into the construction of the painting will be shared alongside relevant insights into the material culture of sixteenth-century Antwerp, from costumes and jugs to the social customs and rituals.
This interdisciplinary approach will allow for a holistic, 360-degree look at the one painting from the most elemental level to the wider historical context that informed the making of the picture, its later reception, and its journey from Antwerp to Detroit.
The focus on the painting’s materials will demonstrate that artworks are not static, but instead subject to natural aging, human intervention, as well as changing shifts in attitude and taste.
The Material World of Bruegel is organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Image: The Wedding Dance, 1566, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Netherlandish; oil on wood panel. Detroit Institute of Arts.