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.

  • Rustic Cares (Solicitudo Rustica)
    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
    Rustic Cares (Solicitudo Rustica), ca. 1555–56
  • Summer Landscape with Figures
    attributed to Sebastian Vrancx, Flemish, 1573–1647 | formerly attributed to Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Flemish, ca. 1525–1569
    Summer Landscape with Figures,
  • The Anglers
    Adriaen van Ostade, Dutch, 1610–1685
    The Anglers, ca. 1647
  • The Fair at Impruneta
    Jacques Callot, French, 1592–1635
    The Fair at Impruneta, 1620
  • Village Fair
    Cornelis Dusart, Dutch, 1660–1704
    Village Fair, 1685
  • May at Xeuilley
    Jacques Callot, French, 1592–1635
    May at Xeuilley, 1624
  • Southwark Fair
    William Hogarth, British, 1697–1764
    Southwark Fair, 1733–34
  • Bathers
    attributed to David Vinckboons, Flemish, 1576–before 1633
  • Women Bathing in a Classical Arcade
    Follower of Viviano Codazzi, Italian, ca. 1604–1672
    Women Bathing in a Classical Arcade,
  • La Grande Chasse (The Stag Hunt)
    Jacques Callot, French, 1592–1635
    La Grande Chasse (The Stag Hunt), ca. 1619–20
  • The Allee and Water Jets at Pratolino
    Stefano Della Bella, Italian, 1610–1664
    The Allee and Water Jets at Pratolino, 1653