Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Work-Life Balance in the 16th Century

Peasant Dance (1569), Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Here we have a lively scene of a peasant dance in a village of 16th century Netherlands, which was at the time under the control of the Spanish empire, and paid fully 50 percent of the taxes levied by the Spanish king on his domains. We used this painting to illustrate the training services page on the Canner Street Consulting web site, because it made the point that good team work can be fun.
Peasant Dance was painted in 1568 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525 – 1569), who is often considered the greatest Flemish painter of the 16th century. During a period when most artists chose formal classical and religious themes, and sited them in urban environments and elaborate settings, such as cathedrals, Bruegel developed the art of landscape painting and printmaking, and sited even his religious paintings in rural settings. His depictions of village life are important artifacts of what life was like for the laboring population of the period. Both of his sons were accomplished painters in their own right. We chose this painting as a reminder that recreation—whether it be playing the bagpipes, or taking a spin around the village square with a partner—is a key ingredient of productivity for every organization. Good training and team-building programs can serve the same purpose.
Question for readers: What is that object that looks like a broken ale mug handle in the lower right hand corner of the painting? What does it mean?

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