Friday, January 13, 2012

Artworks I'd Steal: Hunters in the Snow

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Photo via Wikipedia

The Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. This one has been used over and over again for Christmas cards and such, but if you take a closer look it's far from festive or happy.

The painting was created during the Little Ice Age when winters were very severe and a threat to survival. The hunters are weary and the only thing they caught is a fox. I'm not sure if it will be eaten, but I do know that it was one of three animals peasants were allowed to hunt (along with hares and birds).

The sign of the inn is related to hunting as well, the inn is called The Stag and the sign shows St. Eustache, the patron of hunters. But it's crooked, another hint toward the unsuccessful hunt.

The people in front of the inn pursue another winter activity: the have butchered a pig and the fire will be used to burn off the bristles. Fire is a necessity in winter, but it's also a danger. Follow the gaze of the hunter towards the centre of the painting: a chimney has caught fire. Artchive has a fairly big version where you can see that better.

The people on the ice at least enjoy themselves, they skate and play icestock/curling and another game similar to golf/hockey called Colf. This painting may be the first known depiction of icestock.

The whole thing is not so obviously full of details as some of Bruegel's other paintings, like the Netherlandish Proverbs, but if you know what to look for, it tells a complex story.

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