Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Landscape with a fortified town, a drawing

Signed and dated AD 1553

In the centre rises a large castle set in a hilly landscape. The castle is surrounded by churches and houses and the city is ringed by high walls and towers. Above is a stormy sky with dramatic clouds swirling and sweeping over the city. Outside the city walls country life is evident in the flocks of sheep, herds of cattle and rural figures going about their tasks. On the left we can see the outline of a gallows with a body hanging from the arm.

This appears to be an imaginary landscape which was probably designed for an engraving published by the Antwerp printer, Hieronymous Cock (around 1510-70). It is signed and dated 1553 at lower right. Bruegel travelled through the Alps on his way to and from Italy between 1551 and around 1554. His biographer, Karel van Mander, claimed that 'when Bruegel was in the Alps he swallowed all the mountains and rocks and spat them out again, after his return, onto his canvases and panels.'

Pieter Bruegel I or the Elder was the founder of a family of South Netherlandish artists and one of the greatest artists of sixteenth-century Europe. He combined religion, folklore and knowledge of the classical world in an amusing and moral view of the world which has remained popular to this day.

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More information


W.S. Gibson, Bruegel (Thames and Hudson, 1997)

H. Mielke, Pieter Bruegel, Die Zeichnunge (Brepols, Turnhout, 1998)

J.O. Hand (ed.), The age of Bruegel: Netherland (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC & Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, 1986, 1987)


Height: 236.000 mm
Width: 333.000 mm (top corners made up)

Museum number

PD 1909-4-6-1 (Popham 1)



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