From 14 December 2019 until 30 August 2020, The Conservation Department of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), in collaboration with the European Art Department, is organizing a focus exhibition to celebrate one of the museum’s most iconic paintings, Pieter Bruegel’s The Wedding Dance (1566), on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the artist’s death.
The painting was considered a sensational discovery when it was acquired by the museum in 1930. Today it is one of the two major Bruegel paintings in an American collection, together with The Harvesters at The Met.
Using the lens of art conservation, the exhibition will trace the life of the painting from its creation to the present, emphasizing its status as a material object, from its very free underdrawing and its thin paint application to the conservation treatments and restorations to which it has been subjected over time. The exhibition’s narrative will be driven primarily by current art conservation research spearheaded by the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Conservation Department, including investigations of the unique materials, such as imported Baltic oak and South American cochineal, used to make the painting.
This interdisciplinary approach will allow for a holistic, 360-degree look at the one painting from the most elemental level to the wider historical context that informed the making of the picture, its later reception, and its journey from Brussels to Detroit.