An exhibition that takes a new approach at the work of Pieter Brueghel the Younger and his contemporaries.

“A feast for the eyes. You will find stories in every detail. There is something for every visitor, whether you just look at the image or zoom in on the details.”

- Dorien Tamis, De Limburger 2021

Introduction film with curators Lars Hendrikman and Dorien Tamis

Brueghel and contemporaries: art as covert resistance?
on view until 04.07.2021

Kruisdraging (detail), Peter Paul Rubens, Bonnefanten

In this exhibition we show what appears to be a purely religious subject, has been approached in such a way that it can be seen as a hidden critical commentary on the power structures and religious reality of the Flanders as Pieter Brueghel II knew it. In the exhibition the work of Pieter Brueghel the Younger will be shown with interpretations of the carrying of the cross by predecessors, contemporaries and followers.

Kruisdraging, Pieter Brueghel de Jonge II, Bonnefanten

Art as covert resistance?

For artists, the Carrying of the Cross offered many striking details, a rewarding subject for painting or carving in wood. Initially, in the late Middle Ages, we see the image mainly as part of the Passion, the series of events that led to Christ's "death on the cross, with the Crucifixion as the "culmination".

Like Father, Like Son? Brueghel the Elder died in 1569, three years after the Iconoclasm. Under the reign of Fernando Àlvarez de Toledo, the Duke of Alva, and his Blood Council that followed, religious and political dissidents were relentlessly persecuted. While still on his deathbed, Pieter the Elder is said to have told his wife to burn his drawings, because the caustic satire could bring the family into trouble.

Decades later, his son Peter II gave the soldiers who accompany Christ to Golgotha ​​the banner of the Habsburgs. Did he do this to make the religious image more tangible for his contemporaries? Or did he paint in the mind of his father, and is the weapon a veiled reproach to the authority that puts reformers to death? We will never know for sure, the painter must have deliberately left his intentions open to multiple explanations.

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Brueghel and contemporaries: art as covert resistance?

An exhibition that takes a new approach at the work of Pieter Brueghel the Younger and his contemporaries.

Exhibition booklet

Want to know more about the exhibition? Read about it in the booklet!


Based on a work by Jan van Eyck, which is now only known from copies, stand-alone representations, prints and paintings of the Carrying of the Cross from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries are increasingly common. And where one artist zooms in on Christ's suffering, and thereby creates a so-called "Andachtsbild", others show panoramic views, with myriads of figures. At first sight, nothing more than a Christian image, some painters incorporated direct or indirect social criticism into their Carrying the Cross.

Curator: Lars Hendrikman
Guest curator: Dorien Tamis

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Header image: Workshop Pieter Brueghel II - Christ Carrying the Cross. Photo by Peter Cox / Bonnefanten, long-term loan Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed

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