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The Unfaithful Shepherd

Probably after a lost painting of 1567-69

Follower of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Netherlandish (active Antwerp and Brussels), c. 1525 - 1569

Made in Netherlands (historical name, 15th-16th century), Europe

c. 1575-1600

Oil on panel

24 1/4 x 34 1/8 inches (61.6 x 86.7 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
Cat. 419

Credit Line:
John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

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Christ's parable of the unfaithful shepherd, who grows fat from eating the sheep in his care and flees when the wolf attacks them, was rarely illustrated in art. Pieter Bruegel the Elder's original composition of 1567-69, with its dramatic sweep of landscape, is lost but thought to be reflected in this copy in a later style. The scene may be a disguised allegory of the failure of Margaret of Parma, then regent of the Netherlands, to protect dissenters and Protestants from persecution by the Duke of Alva, or of the flight of his Protestant opponent, the Prince of Orange, to Germany.