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Authenticated Brueghel painting to form heart of new exhibition

07th November 2016

Newly authenticated as a genuine work of Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Wedding Dance in the Open Air is to form a key part of an exciting new exhibition opening in Bath next year.

Bruegel: Defining a Dynasty will open on February 11th 2017 and continue until June 4th at the Holburne Museum in Bath. Open daily, the exhibition aims to help visitors understand the complex Bruegel artistic family tree, which spans some four generations.

To do so, the exhibition will display 35 works from the famous Antwerp family, whose masterpieces have been gathered from a number of galleries, including the Ashmolean Museum, the National Gallery and the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Featuring some three works by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, the exhibition - and indeed the wider museum - is the primary collection of the artist's work in the UK. Wedding Dance in the Open Air is likely to be the most eagerly anticipated work on display, thanks to its recent authentication and the story behind it.

The Wedding Dance arrived in the Holburne Collection directly from Sir William Holburne, who collected a huge array of artworks from across Europe during the 19th century. Upon his death, his wish was that they would remain on display in the city of Bath, where they have since been added to.

The museum has no documentation as to where Sir William obtained the picture, the Guardian reveals, but it suspects that it was acquired at the same time as the other works from Pieter Brueghel the Younger in the collection.

Depicting peasants dancing outside at a wedding, the painting has therefore been in the collection for years, but it was only recently revealed to be a genuine work. In fact, it had previously been believed to be the work of a copyist or follower of Brueghel.

The mistake was uncovered when the museum's new director, Jennifer Scott, believed she saw a genuine masterpiece under the grime that coated the oil painting.

Speaking to the Guardian, Ms Scott said: "The more I looked at the panel, the better it seemed. Even under the grime the detail and the colour seemed fantastic, far too good for a mere copy."

The Wedding Dance joins Robbing the Bird's Nest and the Visit to a Farmhouse on display in the exhibition from February next year.

The Holburne Museum holds the collection of Sir William Holburne (1793-1874). Upon inheriting a family fortune, he left the navy and proceeded to travel around Europe, where he acquired a love of art and an interest in collecting that would characterise the remainder of his life. His interests particularly included Dutch landscapes, bronze sculptures and porcelain.

Since his death, more than 2,000 items have been added to his original collection.

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