Fight Between Carnival and Lent Pieter Bruegel Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The well-known painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, shows a depiction of a festival that was common in Southern Netherlands at the time in 1559.

The painting is known for the contrast of contemporary life as can be seen by the religious observance by the church on the right and the enjoyment of the patrons by the inn on the left. Observers can take note of the alcohol-consuming patrons by the inn and the well-mannered children near the church. The two contrasting people are connected by the well in the centre showing the connectedness and coming together of all the people depicted. Other scenes in the painting show stalls selling fish with two competing floats.

This period piece shows early modern Europe as a battle was enacted between figures present during the common festivals, Lent and Carnival. It represents the different seasonal cuisines as livestock that was not going to be kept through winter were slaughtered, creating an abundance of meat. As preparation for Easter was made, butchers closed shop and bought cattle for the coming spring in the countryside.

Bruegel's work was always rich in symbolism and allegories leading to its study over the centuries. This painting is often seen as the triumph of Lent as the Carnival figure bid farewell with his one hand as his eyes lift to the sky. Another more generalized meaning that is often given to the painting is the belief that Bruegel had about human activities being motivated by self-seeking and folly. The Fight Between Carnival and Lent is currently located in Vienna in a Kunsthistorisches Museum collection.