The Fight of the Moneybags and Strongboxes

bruegelfightofmoneybagsPieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-1569), engraving. Reference: Bastelaer, Hollstein 146. Lebeer 54, Orenstein 115. c. 1563. First state of two (see discussion below). Engraved by P. Van der Heyden. On paper with a Double Headed Eagle watermark. With thread margins below, trimmed to the subject but outside of the borderlines at the sides, trimmed irregularly at the top within the platemark particularly toward the upper right,   some minute worm holes repaired, very light paper discoloration, other minor defects, 9 3/8 x 12 1/8 inches.

A fine clear impression of this well-known print, rarely found, especially in an early impression.

This is LeBeer’s, Hollstein’s, and Lari’s first state, and Bastelaer’s A state (of D), with the monogram of Pieter van der Heyden in the center and the signature P. Bruegel Inuet in the lower right corner, and between the two the address of the publisher Aux quatre Vents. Nadine Orenstein of the Metropolitan Museum recently discovered an impression in the Albertina in Vienna which had some slight variations in the writing at the bottom; assuming that impression was a first state, this print, traditionally the first state, would be a second state (of four; Orenstein also determined that Bastelaer’s State B does not exist!).

This is a difficult composition; one can stare at it for long periods without figuring out precisely who’s attacking whom. Although titled the battle of the moneybags and strongboxes, the battle is more complex than that – there are strongboxes and money bags to be sure, but also barrels of coins, piggy banks, and warriors emerging from all these structures attacking each other. The battle is of course about money, and the inscriptions, in Latin and Flemish, discuss the issues. To quote a few lines: “It’s all about the gold and goods, this fighting and quarreling. Even if somebody tells you otherwise, don’t believe it.”