Sage advice.

The eagerly anticipated art group tour of the Bruegel exhibit was finally here. For the first time ever, the largest collection of Pieter Bruegel the Elder paintings would be assembled at the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna.

All told, 30 paintings were on display. Owing to their delicate conditions, a few could not travel. And others, like one in Queen Elizabeth II’s personal collection, do not travel. But why Vienna for a Netherlandish artist, and on the 450th anniversary of his death? Oh, perhaps because KHM is home to 12 of his 42 known paintings, the largest single collection in the world. The Hapsburgs certainly knew how to collect art.

The queues to purchase tickets outside (for the Luddites who have yet to discover the Internet) resembled those for the Ladies’ WC inside. Having a Jahreskarte helped me to avoid the former, but afforded no such privilege for the latter queue.

Wrestling (figuratively, though it felt like literally) past tour bus hoards glommed up at the museum entrance, and then again in the Garderobe, I met the group and our tour began…

Our guide offered her usual exemplary discussion, and from afar we peered at the masterpieces. I had promised Tony that we would return for our own tour (as we often do) but I was having second thoughts by the time the 118th person had busted in front of me to take a snap. Still, I requested our timed-entry tickets for the following day and hoped for the best.

To where had the tourists gone? We would learn the answer the following day…

Hunters in the Snow, all to ourselves. This one is a favorite of mine.

The Adoration of the Magi, again, all to ourselves. This is the first known painting depicting falling snow. In classic Bruegel style, one must study the work to find The Three Kings.

And practically no one studying on the “foolish observer” of The Painter and the Buyer, though that might be because no one really gets that inference except art historians. Must be inside humor.

The Tower of Babel crowds were still there.

Or were they? This is the second of three Babel paintings by Bruegel, sitting quietly to the side in the gallery; the third is now forever lost. Though KHM’s Babel (above) appears larger than the village, it is only when one compares the scale of the Rotterdam Babel and realizes that it is the bigger Babel. Ha.

To end this little tour I shall leave the fun of deciphering the meaning of Magpie on the Gallows, widely considered Bruegel’s most accomplished landscape to you.