Possible self-portrait of Bruegel, c. 1525-1569

Possible self-portrait of Bruegel, c. 1525-1569

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Procession to the Calvary

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The blades windmill atop the rock counterpoint the cross carried by Christ. The one, however, is an instrument for promoting life by milling grain and pumping water; the other, two crossed pieces of dead wood to carry Christ and the thieves to a place of torture and death.

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Some people at the tragic event are simply enjoying themselves. Others, are forced to participate against their wishes or are jostled by people in the crowd and harassed by soldiery.

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The Calvary (Golgotha) where Christ and the thieves are to be crucified

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The bleak sky and barren foreground contrast with the greenery and buildings of the surrounding town. As in Bruegel’s own time in Flanders, crowds gather to gape at the sight of a public execution. Some people are waling, some riding quickly or slowly. Even the reaction of the dogs is mixed: one runs to scene of excitement, while two other play together, ignoring the momentous event.

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