Northern Europe: 16th century

Netherlands

"Netherlands" means "low countries,” and refers to the area’s low elevation, largely at or below sea level.

1500 - 1600

videos + essays

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Bernard van Orley and Pieter de Pannemaker, <em>The Last Supper</em>
Bernard van Orley and Pieter de Pannemaker, The Last Supper

Faded though it is, this tapestry retains its breathtaking illusionism: veins pop, wine flows, and hair curls.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, <em>Hunters in the Snow (Winter)</em>
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Hunters in the Snow (Winter)

Join the birds and soar through this frozen landscape. On the pond below, playful scenes warm the air.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, <em>Peasant Wedding</em>
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Peasant Wedding

Bruegel offers up a slice of peasant life. Despite our historical distance, this is a wedding party we can attend.

Jan Gossaert, <em>Saint Luke Painting the Madonna</em>
Jan Gossaert, Saint Luke Painting the Madonna

Without historical sources, what gives an artist authority to depict the divine? Gossaert channels St. Luke.

Hieronymus Bosch, <em>Last Judgment Triptych</em>
Hieronymus Bosch, Last Judgment Triptych

Just another day in Hell. Bosch’s seemingly endless representations of pain and suffering betray his dark vision.

Gerard David, <em>The Virgin and Child with Saints and Donor</em>
Gerard David, The Virgin and Child with Saints and Donor

In this solemn and precisely rendered scene, the material world reveals the spiritual. But what’s that angel up to?

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, <em>The Dutch Proverbs</em>
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Dutch Proverbs

Tiles of pie? Spilt porridge? You have to laugh. For all its morality, this painting makes light of human foible.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, <em>The Tower of Babel</em>
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Tower of Babel

A perpetual construction site, this tower rises and falls—just like each of us.

Pieter Aertsen, <em>Meat Stall</em>
Pieter Aertsen, Meat Stall

This composition is bold and original. Front and center, a meat stall steals the spotlight from a religious scene.

Hieronymus Bosch, <em>The Garden of Earthly Delights</em>
Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights

Care for some magic berries? This hallucinogenic landscape offers up a bizarre mix of creation and damnation.