'Our Brueghel' turns out to be... a real Brueghel


Amazement all around in a northern French family. For years, a yellowed painting had been somewhat hidden behind the door of their TV room. 'Our Brueghel', also known as The Village Lawyer, will come under the hammer at the Paris auction house Drouot in late March. Estimated value: 600,000 to 800,000 euros.

10 October 2022 was a lucky day in a country house somewhere in northern France. The name and location remain strictly confidential. However, the heirs looked a bit disappointed when the assessor/auctioneer told them, during the estate inventory, that their cherished painting had mere sentimental value. As the man turned to another canvas, however, he felt a ripple of shock. 'Well, that's 'our Brueghel,' they said with some bitterness; 'not worth anything either, because it's not real and not even signed. No idea how that came into the family, only that it was passed down from generation to generation.' The assessor remained silent but immediately sprang into action. His course of action involved a well-known art expert in Paris, a colleague from the Louvre and the Brueghel world authority Klaus Ertz in Germany. His suspicions were confirmed and the largest format ever seen of The Village Lawyer was found to be authentic.

A group of fearful peasants present their complaints to a lawyer and his clerk. The lawyers overwhelm them, cunning and greedy as they are, with piles of documents. Here, a satirical Pieter Brueghel the Younger (± 1564-1637) gives us a glimpse of the social conditions in 17th-century Brabant.