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Pieter Brueghel, Children's Games: a painting of a lot of little children playing games outside

Pieter Brueghel, Children’s Games (1560 AD)

As European traders began to sail directly to China in the late 1400s AD, they brought back all kinds of new things to Europe: porcelain vases, paper fans, silk cloth. Pieter Brueghel lived in the Netherlands, which was then part of the Holy Roman Empire of Charles V, and he probably saw many of these new Chinese things. In his early thirties, Brueghel travelled to Italy and France, where he may have seen more.

Tang Yin, One Hundred Children (ca. 1500 AD)

Tang Yin, One Hundred Children (ca. 1500 AD)

Nobody knows for sure what Chinese paintings Brueghel saw, but Tang Yin’s famous painting, from about 1500 AD, inspired many knockoffs, and Brueghel may well have seen a Chinese fan or vase with some version of this painting on it. In the same way, Brueghel’s landscape paintings may remind us of slightly earlier Ming Dynasty Chinese landscape paintings, which again Brueghel may have seen painted on fans or on porcelain vases imported to Europe.

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