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The Fair at Hoboken is now owned by the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, UK which has a particular interest in art from the Northern and Italian Renaissance.
This artwork was completed in pen and indian ink, as were most of Bruegel's drawings, and it is dated at around 1559 although there remains question marks around the precise timing of many of his contributions in this medium. Artists at this time would rarely make any documentation around their drawings and sketches, leaving art historians with the task of piecing toegther evidence and information to gauge an overall estimation.
This scene captures a lively local atmosphere, typical of Bruegel's paintings, where a market hosts a collection of colourful characters engaging in merriment and celebration. The Netherlandish communities would often travel good distances in order to come together for events such as these and it paints a positive impression of life for the poorer members of society during this time. With arable land and strong relationships between neighbours, it would be wrong to assume that they experienced only hardship.
The excitement and energy here reminds us of Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights, though Bruegel's drawing makes use of humans rather than imaginary creatures of fantasy. The original title of this artwork was De beurs in Hoboken, and the location itself is on the outskirts of the city of Antwerp in modern day Belguim. Bruegel settled here for several years after travelling around Italy on a mission to study original artworks from the Renaissance.