Bruegel review, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna: a truly momentous, scintillating show

Children’s Games (1560, detail) by Pieter Brugel the Elder
Children’s Games (1560, detail) by Pieter Brugel the Elder Credit: KHM-Museumsverband

At first glance, it resembles a riot. Mayhem has erupted in a 16th-century Flemish town. Hundreds of figures are running amok in the main square, brawling, shouting, brandishing clubs, waving sticks. Some roll barrels, others pulverise bricks. The people have taken over. Anarchy reigns supreme. 

Yet, look more closely, and you will notice something strange. For, these pillagers and plunderers are, almost without exception, children: 230 high-spirited kids, indulging in boisterous games. They give each other piggybacks and tear about in rounds of tag. Groups playing nicely jostle alongside bullying gangs. We can practically hear the whoops of glee, the squeals of pain. 

Where are all the adults?...

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