”Long sticks on the bagpipes. I’m inclined to think the groom is the man in the red hat, passing food towards the bride. The motion of a husband, to penetrate the wife. Note that near him are no less than three phallic symbols pointing towards the wife: the man’s arm, the knife on the table, and the salt-cellar (?) on the table. Note also that at the end of the man’s arm is an ellipse of an angle-seen dish that is oriented and located in the right location to represent the bride’s vagina…..Perhaps Bruegel is the clerk or notary at the right-hand corner. Lothar thinks the bossy guy leaning back from the right end of the bench in front might be the groom — I feel almost angry at this suggestion, I’m so into rooting for “my” guy to be the groom. It occurs to me that the bossy guy might be the groom’s father. He’s a bit anxious, not just bossy. Yes, he’s the groom’s Dad, of course the groom would have someone with him, probably his mother is dead. The bride is unique, like an egg. The groom is multifarous and uncertain, like sperm.” ( Rudy Rucker )
Put out a search party for the groom. The first and most obvious reaction to Bruegel’s painting is its color, mass and striking realism. Yet even in such a vivid painting as the ”Peasant Wedding Feast” , the curious viewer will be confronted with a puzzle. We see a bride but are at a loss to detect the bridegroom. We look at other Bruegel paintings and discover that their vividness frequently conceals a puzzling center of meaning. Whatever the visual effect, the meaning is not obvious.
Frequently Bruegel seems to hide his meaning within a pattern apparently designed to conceal rather than to reveal his meaning. In a painting such as ”The Conversion of Saint Paul” or ”Christ Carrying the Cross” we must search through masses of detail in order to find the iconographical center. In the painting of ”The Blind Leading the Blind” , although the faces of the blind and their very plight suggest poverty, yet their clothing seems to suggest something different. What clue is to be found which will explain an apparent discrepancy between vestment and status.
Again, in the ”Peasant Dance” , what intention exists between the pattern of the painting which draws the eye, through the color and the motion of the foreground, finally to rest on the small figure at the center of the horizon, with his back eloquently turned from the riotous scene in the foreground, finally to rest on the small figure at the center of the horizon, with his back eloquently turned from the riotous scene in the foreground?
Here, along with the suggestion of method, also exists an obvious iconographical question. The bride in the ”Peasant Dance” is clearly marked as she dances fleshily in the foreground. But we search in vain for any positive identification of the bridegroom. Why? Does the method by which our eye finally seeks out the small retiring figure in the background suggest any answer? As we have seen , a similar question arises in the ”Peasant Wedding Feast”
”B has been engraving the Seven Sins and painting his three encyclopedia pictures. He’s almost done with the Children’s Games for Mayken Verhulst and Mayken Coecke. Anja is cheating on him.
B and Franckert dress as peasants and go to a peasant wedding. The Rode Rockx show up and kill two people, set the barn on fire, B walks back home with the dog Waf, who’d belonged to one of the murdered men.” ( Rudy Rucker)
On the right of the friar are an elderly man and woman who look curiously like each other: well dressed, thin, sharp, vivacious, intelligent, rather unattractive. The man, white haired, has been given a special high-backed chair, and the woman is seated next to the bride. They are as important as the friar and the squire, but by their position they must have a closer connection with the wedding. They do not seem to be like the bride or her brothers. The man is not dressed like a farmer;s not the host but a guest. Therefore they are the bridegroom’s father and mother.
But where are the parents of the bride? Since her two brothers are playing the hosts, her father must be dead. The woman sitting at the right hand of rthe beide, in a position equal or superior to that of the groom’s mother, has a distinctive coiff. As she talks to one of the guests, her face is hidden by the head of the servant. She should be the mother of the bride.
Now the bridegroom. Where is he lurking? There is only one person left. Process of elimination like an Agathie Christie whodunit. Right at the center of the picture, sitting besides the bride’s brother and opposite the friar, is an ugly, well dressed man with a disagreeable expression; such an unpleasant fellow that we instinctively dismiss him from consideration as the groom of the plump fat girl facing him. Nevertheless, he is made prominent by his position, by his costume, by his gesture and expression, and by the gaze of other members of the wedding. This is the bridegroom.
He has money. Only two other men wear those dark clothes. Everyone else is in rustic drab. Even his hat is more elaborate than those of the others. But his costume makes a marked contrast with his face and bearing. He is an ugly man with a hard coarse mouth, lips partly opened in a peevish utterance; an expression emphatically similar to that of his father and mother opposite. Everyone else in the room is placidly eating or drinking , or serving, or tactfully abstaining. Only one person is calling for more and exhibiting dissatisfaction. The bridegroom is leaning back at an angle that differentiates him from the other guests, holding up his tankard , looking angrily at the servants, and bringing the bride’s brother into the sphere of his indignation….
”Williblad is living with Ortelius. Williblad is into being a Beggar, he wears a gray cloak. Ortelius, Williblad, Bruegel and Mayken go to see the Calvinist preacher Moded of Zwolle preach outside of Antwerp. Williblad runs into his new girlfriend, a woman named Niay Serrão, a woman from the “spice island” Ternate in the East Indies. When they come back into the town, the iconoclasts loot the Our Lady Church. Williblad and Niay get in on it, pulling down the cross with Christ. Mayken gets them to save one of her father’s paintings. They’re challenged by the same evil Walloon who beat them up at the Carnival in 1556, and who burned down the barn at the peasant wedding in 1560. Williblad knocks him out and then Niay poisons him..” ( Rudy Rucker )
…His rude outburst has startled the popeyed man, who pauses with the spoon in his mouth, and one of the pipers, who stops to stare while his partner keeps on playing. It also annoys his mother and father. They glare at him across the table, the father silently, with glittering eyes and the beginning of a warning gesture, the mother with her lips parted to scold. The bride, with her eyes downcast, and her brothers, busy hosts, have not heard or prefer not to hear. But in this ill-tempered moment the bridegroom and his parents have the same nasty expression which is that of vanity without dignity and wealth without the accompanying graces. The parents are annoyed, but not surprised. They know their boy; something like Wenzel in ”The Bartered Bride”, a spoiled son unfit to be a husband. …
” It is argued that the painting known as The Peasant Wedding Feast is in fact Bruegel‟s mystical commentary on The Marriage at Cana – the miraculous transformation, symbolised by the changing of water into wine, which takes place when God and man are united. According to Matthew Estrada, whose ideas influence parts of the chapter, this event is sometimes known as the alchemical wedding.
But the circumstances of this process are mysterious in that they do not take place in the material world. The main burden of the thesis is to investigate that „other world‟ to which Bruegel had access and where, according to spiritual authorities, spiritual transformation takes place”. ( www.templegallery.com )
…This is the point of the picture. It portrays the social disharmony of town and country. The girl has married above her. She will have a difficult time with that saw-edged mother-in-law, that rich and snarly father-in-law, and that desiccated, obscene and selfish husband. How will she live when she moves to Antwerp and keeps house for an avaricious merchant? Will she be driven to distraction by his bad tempered, immature and abusive chauvinism as well as the nagging parents? Or will she be contented because she need not stack turnips and pitch hay anymore, because her children will have good black clothes and sit in carved wooden chairs instead or wearing threadbare peasant clothes and sitting on the floor? Her downcast eyes, her clasped hands, her smug smile , suggest the answer.
Pour the wine bridegroom
where before you the
bride is enthroned her hair
loose at her temples a head
of ripe wheat is on
the wall beside her the
guests seated at long tables
the bagpipers are ready
there is a hound under
the table the bearded Mayor
is present women in their
starched headgear are
gabbing all but the bride
hands folded in her
lap is awkwardly silent simple
dishes are being served
clabber and what not
from a trestle made of an
unhinged barn door by two
helpers one in a red
coat a spoon in his hatband.
William Carlos Williams