The Wedding Dance, 1566

  • Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Netherlandish, 1525-1569

Oil on wood panel

  • Unframed: 47 × 62 inches (119.4 × 157.5 cm)
  • 57 1/4 × 72 × 3 1/2 inches (145.4 × 182.9 × 8.9 cm)

City of Detroit Purchase


On View

  • European: Medieval and Renaissance


European Painting

The Wedding Dance is a splendid example of Bruegel's fascination with the peasant life of his native land. Public and private holidays and festivals provided him with typical situations and characters for his paintings. Here the wedding guests are very simply modeled, the positions of their arms and legs somewhat exaggerated to make the dancers look more awkward and more rustic. Although a modern audience might see this panel primarily as a genre painting, Bruegel's contemporaries would have noted its moralizing overtones: frenzied dance and lustful behavior could lead to sin and damnation.

Signed and dated, lower right: • M • D L X V I | B R V E G E L

Printed paper label, upper left, verso: No. 71 | Picture Painted, upper right, verso: 30.374 Handwritten paper label, middle right, verso: 17385

Private Collection (England)

until 1930, (Arthur Joseph Sulley [1853 - 1930], London, England)

1930-present, purchased by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

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Art in America 19, no. 4 (June 1931): 149–166, pp. 162. [dated 1666] Glück, Gustav. Bruegels Gemälde. Vienna, 1932, pp. 53–54, no. 24 (ill.). Pierrot, George F. and Edgar P. Richardson. Six Great Painters: A Guide to a Half-Hour Tour of the Galleries. Detroit, 1933, pp. 16–19, no. 5. Rich, Daniel Catton et al. Century of Progress Exhibition. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago, 1933, p. 6, no. 34 (ill.). Tolnay, Charles de. Pierre Bruegel l'Ancien. Brussels, 1935, vol. 1: pp. 92–93, no. 40; vol. 2: pl. 149 (ill.). Houtart, Mme. la Baronne Albert and Mme. Feron-Fontaine. Cinq Siecles d’Art, vol. 1. Exh. cat., Brussels, 1935, p. 66, no. 137. Delacre, Maurice. "Brueghel and Not Brueghel." Burlington Magazine 69, no. 402 (September 1936): 99–111, pp. 99–111 (ill.). Richardson, E. P. Flemish Painting of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. Detroit, 1936, unpaginated, fig. 15 (ill.). Friedländer, Max J. Die Altniederländische Malerei, vol.14. Leiden, 1937, pp. 30–31, 61, no. 34, pl. XXXII (ill.). "City Obtains Flemish Art." Detroit Free Press (November 27, 1938): p. 52. Jedlicka, Gotthard. Pieter Bruegel: Der Maler in seiner Zeit. Erlenbach-Zurich, 1938, p. 539. [as possibly by Pieter Bruegel the Elder] "Art." Detroit Free Press (March 19, 1939): p. 82 (ill.). Hill, Edwin C. "The Human Side of the News" Stevens Point Journal (June 19, 1939): p. 4. McCall, George Henry. Catalogue of European Painting and Sculpture from 1300–1800. Exh. cat., New York World's Fair. New York, 1939, pp. 15, pl. 59, no. 28 (ill.).​ Tietze, Hans, ed. Masterpieces of European Paintings in America. New York, 1939, pp. 147 (ill.), 319, no. 147. Valentiner, William R. and Alfred M. Frankfurther. Masterpieces of Art: Exhibition at the New York World's Fair 1939, Official Souvenir Guide and Picture Book. Exh. cat., New York World's Fair. New York, 1939, addenda, p. 10, no. 28, pl. 46. Valentiner, W[illiam] R. "Old Masters." 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Tampa Tribune (March 25, 1962): p. 110 (ill.). DeMille, Agnes de. The Book of the Dance. New York, 1963, p. 46 (ill.). Robb, David M. Art in the Western World. New York, 1963, pp. 528–529, fig. 453 (ill.). "125 Figures Cavort on Bruegel Painting." Detroit Free Press (January 8, 1965): p. 4-C (ill.). "Painting for Pleasure." Palm Beach Post (March 28, 1965): p. 44. Scheyer, Ernst. "The Wedding Dance by Pieter Bruegel the Elder in the Detroit Institute of Arts: Its Relations and Derivations." The Art Quarterly 28, no. 3 (1965): 167–193, pp. 167–193 (ill.). Grossman, F. Peter Bruegel, The Paintings. London, 1966, pl. 121 (ill.), pp. 200–201. [also see 1973 third edition, pp. 199–200, pls. 125, 134] Richardson, E.P. Treasures from the Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1966, pp. 7, 122 (ill.). Bianconi, Piero. The Complete Paintings of Bruegel. New York, 1967, pp. 12, 104–105, 107, no 41. (ill.). Myers, Bernard S. Art and Civilization. London, 1967, p. 268, fig. 439 (ill.). 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The Detroit Institute of Arts Illustrated Handbook. Detroit, 1971, p. 95, no. 13 (ill.). Van Gelder, J. G. "Jande Bisschop 1628-1671." Oud Holland 86, no. 4 (1971): 201-259, 261-288, p.215, note 57. Alpers, Svetlana. "Bruegel's Festive Peasants." Simiolus 6, no. 3/4 (1972–1973): 163–176, pp. 163–167 (ill.), 174–176 (ill.). Burness, Donald B. "Pieter Bruegel: Painter for Poets." Art Journal 32, no. 2 (Winter 1972–1973): 157–162, pp. 159–161 (ill.). Grossmann, Fritz. “Some Observations on Georges de La Tour and the Netherlandish Tradition.” The Burlington Magazine 115, no. 846 (September 1973): 567, 578-583, p. 579, note 12. Harper, James. "Art Institute Fretting over a Prudish Ad." Detroit Free Press (February 18, 1973): pp. A-3, A-5 (ill.). Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed., s.v. "Pieter Bruegel." Chicago, 1974, pp. 571 (ill.). Friedländer, Max J. Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. 14. Leiden, 1976, pp. 27, 45, no. 34, pl. 42. Gibson, Walter S. Bruegel. New York, 1977, pp. 159–168, fig. 115 (ill.); pp. 200, 204. Morse, John D. Old Master Paintings in North America: Over 3000 Masterpieces by 50 Great Artists. New York, 1979, pp. 31–32. Poli, Franco de and Edi Baccheschi. Bruegel. Milan, 1979, pp. 78–79 (ill.). [as "Danza nuziale all'aperto"] Selected Works from the Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1979, pp. 57, 69, no. XIII, (ill). Demus, Klaus, Friderike Klauner, and Karl Schütz, eds. Flämische Malerei von Jan van Eyck bis Pieter Bruegel D.Ä. Vienna, 1981, p. 115. Failing, Patricia. Best-Loved Art from America Museums. New York, 1983, pp. 16–17 (ill.). "Das Spiel ist Tanz, Lust und Ausgelassenheit." Du: Die Kunstzeitschrift 43, no. 10 (1983): pp. 44–45 (ill.). Mori, Yoko, ed. Bruegel. Les Grands Maitres de la Peinture 11. Tokyo, 1984, pp. 37, 86, no. 99 (ill.). Henshaw, Julia P. 100 Masterworks from the Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 1985, pp. 100–101 (ill.). Horowitz, Frederick A. More Than You See: A Guide to Art. New York, 1985, pp. 42, 45, fig. 5-17 (ill.). Snyder, James. Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, the Graphic Arts from 1350 to 1575. New York, 1985, pp. 497–499, pl. 562 (ill.). Marandel, J. Patrice. "A Valentiner Legacy: The Broad Stream of European Painting." Apollo 124, no. 298 (December 1986): 486–497, pp. 489, 491 (ill.). Collobio Ragghianti, Licia. "Per Bruegel." Critica d'Arte 53, no. 18 (October–December 1988): 50–53, pp. 51–52 (ill.). Liedtke, Walter. "'Peasants Fighting over Cards' by Pieter Bruegel and Sons." Artibus et Historiae 10, no. 19 (1989): 123–131, pp. 123, 130–131, nn. 4, 11. Gibson, Walter S. Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Two Studies. Lawrence, 1991, pp. 10–17, fig. 1 (ill.); pp. 35–37 (ill.), p. 43. Bauman, Guy C. and Walter A. Liedtke. Flemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp, 1992, pp. 138–140, no. 40 (ill.). Fiero, Gloria K. 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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Wedding Dance, 1566, oil on wood panel. Detroit Institute of Arts, City of Detroit Purchase, 30.374.