Scenes of peasant celebrations that Pieter Bruegel the Elder made popular in the 1560s were still so in the 1600s, and his son Pieter II devoted himself to filling that demand. This lively scene by the son is derived from a famous painting of 1566 by the father (now in Detroit). In 1607, when this painting was dated, the original was in Emperor Rudolf’s collection in Prague, so the son relied on an engraving. Peasant life was hard, and weddings offered rare opportunities for diversion. The bride sits under a crude crown honoring her as “queen for a day” while neighbors offer gifts of coins. The angular, suggestive movements of the dancers whirling to bagpipe music convey a raucous mood that probably amused urban patrons.
Giuseppe Maria Crespi made this ambitious painting for Giovanni Ricci, the patron who financed the Bolognese painter’s artistic education. Depicting the wedding feast where Christ performed his first miracle, the work balances the luxuriant accessories of the wedding banquet with a telling narrative – on the left, the conversation between the Virgin and Christ and, on the right, the exchange between the astonished host and his servant as they taste the water miraculously transformed into wine. Even in this early work, Crespi achieved a synthesis of the venetian tradition of color and grandeur with the observation of the figure characteristic of his native Bologna.