Fair Weather Pleasures in Early Modern Europe

In the early fifteenth through eighteenth centuries—the period often called the Early Modern era—artists illustrated outdoor activities of the temperate season in different modes. These included genre scenes (scenes of daily life), landscapes, topographic images, and country house views. This selection of such images allows for comparison between the leisure activities of elite society and those of the working class, in works from the geographic areas of modern Italy, the Netherlands, France, and England. The purposes of these images varied. Serving the Medici court in Florence and Louis XIV in France, respectively, Stefano della Bella and Pierre LePautre immortalized the hydraulic marvels of garden fountains for propaganda purposes—to spread images of the costly luxuries enjoyed by these princes. Jacques Callot illustrated the pleasures of the stag hunt for a public eager for images of aristocratic leisure. In the Netherlands, David Vinckboons carried this sort of imagery into realms of fantasy, portraying women bathing in a secluded garden with multiple fountains. 

The pleasures of working-class people portrayed by Pieter Bruegel and Sebastian Vrancx include fishing, bathing in the river, and lovemaking in the fields, all in the midst of continuing agricultural work. Callot and William Hogarth illustrated fairs in images that allow comparisons to be made between these meeting places for various social classes in Italy and in the North. They reveal a world of popular entertainment and fairgoers from far-flung locations crossing paths. In an era when Europe was plunged into the Little Ice Age (from roughly the fourteenth through the mid-nineteenth century), people from all walks of life rejoiced in the mild summer weather and celebrated its seasonal pleasures.

  • 3259
    Jan van Doetechum the Elder, Dutch, active 1554–after 1600
    Lucas A. van Doetechum, Dutch, ca. 1554–before 1584
    after Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Flemish, ca. 1525–1569
    Published by Hieronymus Cock, Netherlandish, 1507–1570
    Solicitudo Rustica (Rustic Cares), ca. 1555–56
  • 21657
    attributed to Sebastian Vrancx, Flemish, 1573–1647
    Summer Landscape with Figures
  • 5650
    Adriaen van Ostade, Dutch, 1610–1685
    The Anglers, ca. 1647
  • 53096
    Jacques Callot, French, 1592–1635
    The Fair at Impruneta, 1620
  • 47214
    Cornelis Dusart, Dutch, 1660–1704
    Village Fair, 1685
  • 46557
    Jacques Callot, French, 1592–1635
    May at Xeuilley, 1624
  • 38825
    William Hogarth, British, 1697–1764
    Southwark Fair, 1733–34
  • 31849
    attributed to David Vinckboons, Flemish, 1576–before 1633
  • 54954
    Follower of Viviano Codazzi, Italian, ca. 1604–1672
    Women Bathing in a Classical Arcade
  • 47016
    Jacques Callot, French, 1592–1635
    La Grande Chasse (The Stag Hunt), ca. 1619–20
  • 14331
    Stefano Della Bella, Italian, 1610–1664
    The Allee and Water Jets at Pratolino, 1653