Dr. Klaus Ertz has confirmed the attribution of the present lot to Pieter Brueghel the Younger in a certificate dated 9 October 2003, noting that 'Diese Version gehört in ihrer hohen marlerischen Perfektion, in ihrer Pinselschrift, die jedem einzelnen Detail bis ins Finste nachspürt, zu den qualitätvollsten Bildern deses Themas'. He will be publishing it in a forthcoming addendum to his catalogue raisonné on the artist. He further notes that, on the basis of signed versions of The Wedding Dance, the artist treated this topic between 1607-1626, and that the present panel was probably painted in the later years, when most of these images were created.
The composition, described by Marlier as 'un des plus populaires de toute le peinture flamande au début du XVII siècle', is one of a group by Brueghel representing different episodes during a wedding day, generally regarded as amongst the high points of the artist's ouevre. The group's popularity can be understood through its combination of landscape and genre with Brueghel's familiar pathos-imbued depiction of bawdiness in seventeenth-century Flemish life. Like many of Pieter II's works, these are part of a tradition largely established by his father, Pieter Bruegel I.
The present composition derives from another, probably lost, drawing or painting by Pieter Bruegel I, known from an engraving by Pieter van der Heyden that was published by Hieronymus Cock; a derivation from the same source is also known by Jan Brueghel I (Bordeaux, Musée des Beaux-Arts). Pieter II's works of this type can be divided into two groups: those painted in the same sense as Van der Heyden's engraving, and those in reverse. The present picture, together with the majority of autograph versions, belongs to the latter group, believed to derive directly from his father's lost work rather than from the engraving.
It has been suggested that Pieter I's original is the painting in the Detroit Institute of Arts, dated 1566. Accepted in full in the past, the question of that painting's authenticity has recently been re-examined. Ertz, in his monograph on Pieter II, notes that in his opinion it is either an original Pieter Bruegel I or a contemporary copy of a lost work. Either way, were it the original for the composition, both brothers, although retaining many of the motifs of their father's work, adapted the source for their own designs.
The most striking differences are that in the Detroit picture the bride has mingled with the dancing guests, whilst in the sons' works she sits in the background before a canopy with, before her, a plate of coins given as wedding gifts; also the number of people depicted has been reduced, increasing the extent of the landscape background.