Winter in the mountains

Watching the odd snowflake drift from a cloudy sky in the Tyrolean mountains, this painting from 1565 feels right. The imaginary, snowy landscape by Pieter Breugel captures the atmosphere of a wintry day perfectly.

The oil painting on oak boards is part of a large exhibition of Breugel’s work in the Museum of Art in Vienna. Breugel was kept busy designing prints for the leading publisher of the day. Only in the latter part of his short life, he focused on oil paintings, which were highly sought by collectors – including Rudolf II, the Austrian Habsburg Emperor.

At the show, the enjoyment of the works was enhanced by sections offering art historic details. We learnt how oak had to be split to make the boards, while one large painting was shown minus its frame, with the boards astonishingly large and slim. As boards move or warp and damage the painting, another section explained how restorers remove old varnish, overpainting and flaking.

Here my photo of The Peasant Dance, around 1568, where reflections create a line in the oil paint as it got squeezed by the movement of the boards underneath.

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