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READER COMMENT: BRUEGEL'S "WINE OF ST. MARTIN" IN THE PRADO

 

NEW YORK, 2 NOVEMBER 2010 The Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid announced in September the discovery of 'The Wine of Saint Martin’s Day,' a previously unknown work by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1527 - 1569).

Dear Culturekiosque Staff:

You run a very fine site, but as a student of St. Martin in art (see particularly my article "Martin y muchos pobres: Grotesque Versions of the Charity of St. Martin in the Bosch and Bruegel Schools," Essays in Medieval Studies 14 (1998)), I have a few quibbles with your "Prado Musuem Reveals Unknown Painting by Pieter Bruegel" article of 10 September. Your writer seems to confuse 'grape-picking,' which takes place in September,  with first sampling of the new-wine which is proper to Martinmas (11 November) More importantly, your downplaying of the allegorical in favor of the 'realistic' in this scene is a bit off base.  Bruegel's painting is not reportage. There is no historical documentation for such a wine-gift to the peasantry. How 'realistic' is it to have a large barrel full of wine, unguarded, appearing on the outskirts of a village?  Where are the generous donors; wouldn't somebody be keeping order or attempting to keep order here in a truly 'realisitic' scene??  Realistic in its details, certainly, but not in the overall scene which is fantasy.

Prof. Martin W. Walsh, Ph.D. (Cantab)
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI
U.S.A.

The writer is a specialist in Medieval and Early Modern drama and popular culture, and a founding member of the Center for Research in Festive Cultures out of the Newberry Library, Chicago. 

 

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