AO News Summary – Madrid: Breugel’s 41st painting, one of his largest, discovered at Prado Museum

September 26th, 2010

The Wine of Saint Martin’s Day
, a Bruegel painting recently discovered by the Prado Museum. Image courtesy of the New York Times.–>

The Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, Spain has discovered a painting by sixteenth-century Flemish master Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The painting, The Wine of Saint Martin’s Day, is dated between 1565 and 1568. Belonging to private collectors, the painting was brought to the Prado to have it studied and cleaned before the owners planned its sale. During the restoration, scholars of Flemish painting were invited to share their expertise. After an x-ray on the 4.8 x 8.9 foot canvas revealed the artist’s signature, its authorship was confirmed. The painting had previously been attributed to Bruegel’s less illustrious son.

Bruegel’s signature on the back of the canvas. Image courtesy of the AFP.

More text and images after the jump…According to the Associated Press, the Prado hopes to acquire the work for 7 million euros, a third of its estimated market value. (Spanish newspaper El Pais estimates the value to be 25 million euro.) The owners, Spanish collectors, would rather the work be placed in the Spanish public collection than to disappear into the free market. In an interview with the BBC, Spanish cultural minister Angeles Gonzales-Sinde announced on Thursday, “The discovery of a Bruegel is an exceptional event and not something that is likely to be repeated.” There is only one other Brueghel work in the Prado’s collection, a 1562 work, The Triumph of Death.

Spanish cultural minister Angeles Gonzales-Sinde inspects the masterwork.

But according to Art Info, the Spanish government may have to work hard to raise the money: “In May, the ruling government slashed the national budget by 115 million euro, trying to close a budget deficit that some experts have warned could lead to the bankruptcy of the Spanish government – particularly if Greece defaults on its enormous national debt…”

There are only 40 existing paintings attributed to Breugel, and this discovery makes 41. An ancient engraving referenced the work, but scholars long believed the painting to be lost. The Wine of Saint Martin’s Day is one of Breugel’s largest canvases, and was painted in tempera, a medium Brueghel seldom used. Preferring oil painting, Breugel specialized in landscape and genre paintings which illustrated the life of peasants. The scene from the recently discovered canvas depicts a debaucherous crowd attempting to sip the year’s first wine on St. Martin’s feast day. Martinmas, as it is also known, marks the end of autumn and the beginning of harvest season.

In her description of the canvas, Pilar Silva Marato, head of the Prado’s department of Flemish Painting, told The Independent that “the application of the brushstroke with its deft, confident strokes, the manner of creating the folds of the drapery, the touches of light on the faces and on some of the drinking vessels, some of the shadows and the choice of colors are all characteristic of Pieter Bruegel the Elder.”

– J. Lindblad

Related Links:

In Rare Find, Prado Says Painting Is by Brueghel the Elder [New York Times]
Spain Discovers a Bawdy Unknown Work by Pieter Brueghel the Elder [Art Info]
It Was Painted by a Brueghel, But Which One? [The Independent]
Brueghel Painting Revealed by Restorers in Spain [BBC]
400-Year-Old Masterpiece Discovered in Spain [The Atlantic]
Painting Confirmed as Rare Brueghel [CBC]
Spanish Experts Discover Rare Brueghel [Associated Free Press]
Spain Narrowly Approves More Budget Cuts [New York Times]
Beware of Greek Bearing Bonds [Vanity Fair]