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Market Day

       

Oil Painting by Laurence Smith

 

Reconstruction of a Lost Painting

A catalogue of paintings belonging to Peeter Stevens that were sold in 1688 describes a lost painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder in the following way. "A very famous Heath, where peasant men and women go to market with a cart and swine, and others". A very small copy of this painting can be seen in another work of art, a painting by van Haecht. Stevens had bought it from Cornelis van der Geest who had had his collection of pictures made into a painting by Willem van Haecht.
The painting by Bruegel is shown hanging high up on the wall, by a window, on the left. The steep angle of the perspective and the darkness of the position makes it very difficult to see any details, but with the help of a computer I was able to restore it to a rectangular shape and enhance the light on it so that I could see the general composition . A couple of trees, two women and a wagon can be made out, and I could tell from the angle of shadows under the women's feet that the morning sunlight was pictured from the left-hand side.An anonymous sketch with watercolour of this subject survives in the print room in Munich. It matches Bruegel's painting and gives us more of the details. Eleven figures are clearly seen and most of them are carrying produce in baskets. One man is taking two pigs to market. A women in the foreground is carrying a crate of poultry on her head, another balances a large jug, and both have baskets on their arms. A four wheeled Flemish wagon , loaded with produce is featured prominently in the centre leading the eye down a track with other wagons and travellers into the distance. There is a windmill on the left middle distance and a village and church on the right. It is difficult to interpret what is in the distance.
To reconstruct this lost painting I made use of the watercolour sketch for the design, added a few more trees that can be seen in the Haecht painting and tried to match the palette of Bruegel's other landscape paintings.