The COURTAULD Collection

Drawings & Prints:

Pieter Bruegel the Elder,
Kermis at Hoboken

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Kermis at Hoboken, 1559, pen and brown ink on laid paper, 265 x 394 mm. D.1947.LF.45.

Celebrated for his vivid depictions of peasant life, Bruegel captures the myriad activities at a church festival, or ‘Kermis’, in the village of Hoboken, close to the city of Antwerp. Amongst the dancing, feasting and drinking are amorous couples embracing and figures relieving themselves with their trousers down. An archery competition precariously takes place within the crowd. An engraving after this drawing is inscribed: ‘The peasants delight in such festivals: to dance, jump, and drink themselves as drunk as beasts. They insist on holding their kermisses, even though they have to fast and die of the cold’, raising the question of whether this is a straightforward celebration of peasant life, or a moralising or even satirical view.