The Painter and The Buyer 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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Bruegel the Elder made this drawing, The Painter and The Buyer, in 1565.

Confidently drawn in pen and ink on light brown paper, the original measures just 255 x 215mm. This little dual portrait is also known as The Artist and The Connoisseur. Most of Breugel's patrons were indeed connoisseurs, wealthy merchants and scholars.

The sketch shows the artist standing at his easel. His paintbrush is in his right hand and he is concentrating hard on his painting. Behind him, peering over the artist's shoulder and reaching into the purse on his belt, is the potential buyer. His smile, and his intent focus on the work in progress clearly show his desire to own it.

The artist wears a painting smock, and his hair is wild and unkempt. He does not appear to notice that the buyer is there. The buyer, on the other hand, wears the sort of clothing associated with a well-to-do merchant.

In the mid-sixteenth century, spectacles were often used in paintings to signify not just physical, but also mental short-sightedness. It is possible that Bruegel wanted to suggest that this buyer, even if he looked like a connoisseur, was unlikely to truly appreciate the work he was about to purchase.

The original drawing is in the Albertina Museum in Vienna. The Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel was born at some time between 1526 and 1530 in the area of Europe that we now know as the Netherlands. He was a prolific artist, and many of his paintings depict village life in all its guises.

The paintings follow the seasons and show peasants and farmers working, playing and celebrating. He made accurate observations of his subjects and painted them "warts and all". During the Reformation, his drawings and engravings provided the sort of social commentary we expect from political cartoonists today.