Kitchenware in Bruegel’s Battle between Carnival and Lent

Alexandra van Dongen

In 2019, it will be 450 years since the death of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1526/28-1569). To mark this anniversary, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna has organized the first ever retrospective of Bruegel’s work, called Bruegel. The Hand of the Master, while a second exhibition The World of Bruegel will be shown in the Bokrijk Open-Air Museum in Belgium in april 2019. These two institutions, in collaboration with the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam joined forces to bring Bruegel’s masterpiece Battle Between Carnival and Lent (1559) to life. An important key to the understanding of this painting are the numerous everyday domestic artefacts, depicted in Bruegel’s painting. The material props that he visualized in this work have been thoroughly examined and interpreted from a contemporary perspective. A new publication was the result: Conversation Pieces. The World of Bruegel. The authors allowed the objects to speak for themselves. In her paper, Alexandra van Dongen will focus on the extraordinary iconography of domestic kitchenware, that Bruegel has staged very realistically in this world-famous painting as meaningful props. They inform us not only about the existence of the type of 16th century artefacts, but also about their culinary and symbolic functions in Bruegel’s Battle between Carnival and Lent.

Pieter Bruegel, Battle between Carnival and Lent, 1559, Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, Austria