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Arts of Europe

The MFAH collections of art created on the European continent encompass artistic styles across the time line of history, from the ancient world to the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern era to the 21st century.

After Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Netherlandish, c. 1525/30 - 1569
The Fair of Saint George's Day
c. 1559–10
Etching and engraving (first of two states)

Plate/Sheet: 13 1/4 x 20 5/8 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of The Brown Foundation, Inc.

Arts of Europe

This bustling scene by renowned Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder shows a typical Netherlandish kermis. Originally a feast day for a patron saint, the kermis became a combination carnival, festival, fair, and religious observance, and it was one of Bruegel's favorite subjects.

Bruegel was the most prominent member of a Netherlandish family of artists active in the 16th and 17th centuries. An inventive draftsman and painter, his impact was widespread and long lasting as a result of the prints that reproduced his paintings. He was famous for his innovative treatment of landscapes and depictions of the lives of commoners, earning him the nickname "Peasant Bruegel."

This kermis—according to the banner at the right of the image—celebrates the feast day of Saint George. Inscribed on the ribbon over the saint, who is recognizable by his attributes of the bow and arrow, is the phrase Laet die boeren haer keermis houven, or "Let the peasants hold their kermis." This slogan was a protest against an edict of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V limiting the kermis to a single day because of the notorious drunken excesses associated with the fête.