The copy in the Museum Mayer van den Bergh was probably produced before Pieter Bruegel the Younger and his workers made a total of thirteen. These differ from the original in their colours and sometimes because an element from the original has been left out or changed. Intriguingly, there is one detail that appears on all the copies. This can only be seen in the preparatory drawing done by Bruegel the Elder. Conclusion: Pieter the Younger used this drawing by his father when making his copies. What can you see? In fact, there are three paintings in one: a religious painting, a scene from everyday life and a winter landscape. The Biblical story is that of Joseph and the heavily pregnant Mary.
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Speaking from his Mayfair gallery, he was describing his first sight of a painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younger that has for the years since its creation been completely unknown to the world. The owners had never publicised their precious possession, although they were well aware of its pedigree. Until the s they even had among the family papers the original receipt, Van Haeften tells me, made out in Antwerp in for the purchase price of florints. If that mislaid piece of paper ever comes to light, it will in itself be a fascinating object for art historians. After its purchase the work simply disappeared from public view into quiet domesticity, and for four centuries its very existence has remained unknown even to the most assiduous of Brueghel scholars.
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This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus years or fewer. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published or registered with the U. Copyright Office before January 1, From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. File information. Structured data. Captions English Add a one-line explanation of what this file represents. The People's Census at Bethlehem.
In the middle of a snowy landscape, villagers are busy. We are in Flanders, as indicated by the typically Flemish stepped gable of the house at the bottom. A host of characters is converging on an inn in the foreground. They are coming to pay their taxes, in cash or in kind: chickens, eggs, wheat But now a strange group comes forward. A woman dressed in blue and sitting on an ass is accompanied by an ox and a man carrying a saw. These are the Virgin Mary and Joseph the carpenter, the parents of Christ. They have come to register in their hometown, as the law required. The painter takes the opportunity to locate the scene in a region familiar to him, Flanders, whereas this biblical episode takes place in Bethlehem, today in Palestine. He chooses to place these characters who lived years before him in a contemporary setting as if the scene had taken place in his own time!