Did Bruegel and his audience know that snow was out of place in his nativity paintings?

Mar 2019
1
Paris
#1
And, as a wider question, about many 16th and 17th century Italian painters, did they know that the fashion portrayed in their biblical scenes were completely anachronistic?
We have Persian kings and queens from 5th century BCE dressed as 16th century nobility? (Artemisia Gentileschi, Esther before Ahasuerus) Gentileschi,_Artemisia_-_Esther_before_Ahasuerus_-_c._1628–1635.jpg

Lastly, as final question, do you know of any contemporary sources (Vasari?) that commented on this strange portrayal of historical events?

Thanks.

Trevor Le_dénombrement_de_Béthléem_Brughel_le_jeune.jpg
 
May 2009
1,286
#2
Maybe a conscious choice? The same way we sometimes update Shakespeare stories and put them in a modern setting. Although you see this in the art of other cultures too. Persian miniatures for example were usually not historically accurate. Neither were Chinese depictions of their own ancient past (unless they were direct copies of actual ancient paintings). I'd chalk it up to ignorance. A lot of this historical information would've been unavailable to most people.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,831
Dispargum
#3
Who was the intended audience for these paintings? Such was the state of education at the time that most people were generally ignorant of such details. When Shakespeare produced "Julius Caesar" he supposedely costumed his Roman soldiers in Elizabethan uniforms because his audiences would not have recognized Roman uniforms or equipment. Upper class elites who wrote most of our source material had the best education available and might have known such details. But even in the early post Medieval period most people were still illiterate and generally ignorant of knowledge beyond what they needed to live their daily lives.
 
Likes: authun

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,118
#8
Of course Breugel was very well aware. The pig being slaughted is also an unlikely site in Palestine. He spent a lot of time in Italy and got commissions to paint northern european scenes for his patrons. Several well known paintings are in the museum in Vienna, commissions by members of the Hapsburg family, eg Hunters in the Snow. The subject of something like the Census at Bethlehem is a northern scene, the census is used to tell the story. Have a look at one person's analysis:

A closer look at ‘The Census at Bethlehem’ by Pieter Bruegel
 
Last edited:
Jan 2017
692
UK
#9
Clothes of Persian Royalty must've been pretty difficult to get a hold of in those days, far easier to paint models wearing contemporary outfits.

As for Bruegel, maybe a town fully blanketed with snow would've pleased his patrons more than a winter scene without snow, maybe he had a ton of Titanium White to use up, who knows?
 

macon

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
3,877
Slovenia, EU
#10
Of course Breugel was very well aware. The pig being slaughted is also an unlikely site in Palestine. He spent a lot of time in Italy and got commissions to paint northern european scenes for his patrons. Several well known paintings are in the museum in Vienna, commissions by members of the Hapsburg family, eg Hunters in the Snow. The subject of something like the Census at Bethlehem is a northern scene, the census is used to tell the story. Have a look at one person's analysis:

A closer look at ‘The Census at Bethlehem’ by Pieter Bruegel
Oh, I was not aware that it is titled with Bethlehem. Funny matter, thanks.