‘Winter’ and ‘Spring’ by Peter Brueghel the Younger

Breughel Winter BT
Breughel Winter AT
Spring Breughel BT
Spring Breughel AT

A pair of works long dismissed as low-value copies after a famous series by a famous Flemish artist depicting pastoral activities at different seasons of the year lay in the storerooms of the Ulster Museum. They had been purchased as ‘by Peter Brueghel the Younger’ but were demoted in 1973 to ‘after Peter Brueghel the Younger’, i.e. thought to be later copies made by another artist. Our work revealing the original colours and composition helped to re-attribute them as works by Peter Brueghel the Younger, making them the only publicly owned paintings by this artist in Northern Ireland. With unsympathetic interviews in the 19th century and again in the 1950s and 60s, the two works on panel had suffered, and the paint was flaking. The first step was to consolidate the paint. After that, the varnishes and later overpaint were removed, revealing lovely details including chickens in the field of ‘Spring’ and a signature in the bottom right corner of ‘Winter’. Infrared photography captured the drawing lines from the artist’s original design. The treatment returned the pair of paintings to how the artist intended them. Bendor said: “To have been able to restore these two gloriously detailed pictures to their rightful status has been immensely satisfying for us.”