I had the opportunity to visit the Museo del Prado this week. I went to see the exhibition The Hermitage in The Prado. See my previous post HERE. But I had the chance as well to discover a previously unknown work by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Wine of Saint Martin’s Day. It has been attributed to the artist by the Museo del Prado following several months of study and the restoration of the painting at the Museum.
The Wine of Saint Martin’s was acquired in 2010 by the Spanish Ministry of Culture and the Museo del Prado. It is one of the most ambitious and complex works within the oeuvre of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525/30 – 1569), the most important Flemish painter of the sixteenth century.
The work was known from an engraving that was commissioned by Bruegel’s great-grandson, Abraham Bruegel but the original painting was thought to be lost.
Bruegel depicted the annual celebration of the eve of Saint Martin’s day on 11 November just outside the city when wine from the new vintage was distributed for free. His depictions has much of the flavour of a bacchanal. Clustered around a large barrel, the gluttonous participants in the celebration fill a variety of vessels (including their shoes) with the wine flowing from it.
The work required restoration in order to remove both the thick layer of polyester varnish that covered the paint surface and the lining that had produced creases and bulges in the linen support. As a result, exceeding all initial expectations, Bruegel’s work has regained much of its original matte texture, characteristics of painting of this type.
It displayed alongside the X-radiograph of the painting that provides information on its physical condition and reveals the artist’s distinctive execution. Finally, a video shows the different stages of the restoration process. (Information provided by the Museo Nacional del Prado)
See additional information at The Wine of Saint Martin’s Day. Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Museo Nacional del Prado).