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Private Life Of A Masterpiece - Bruegel's Census At Bethlehem

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Private Life Of A Masterpiece
Bruegel's Census At Bethlehem

The Census at Bethlehem (also known as The Numbering at Bethlehem) is an oil-on-panel by Flemish renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder, painted in 1566. Acquired in 1902, it is currently held and exhibited at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels.

pieter_bruegel_the_elderhecensus_at_bethlehem.jpg

As often before, Bruegel treats a biblical story as a contemporary event. And once again, reference to particular political events has been adduced - in this case, the severity of the Spanish administration in the southern Netherlands. However, Bruegel may well be making a more general criticism of bureaucratic methods.

The events depicted are described in Luke 2, 1-5:

    And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered... So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

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