Villagers on Their Way to Church
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Simon Bening
Flemish, probably Bruges, about 1550
Tempera colors and gold paint on parchment
2 3/16 x 3 3/4 in.

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As the local parish church prepares for services, villagers and rural peasants make their way down the path. In the distance, fields, gently rolling hills, buildings, and groves of trees give shape to the landscape. The candlelit procession inside the church, as well as the candles held by the approaching villagers, suggest the celebration of Candlemas, a church holiday observed the second of February.

An earlier owner probably cut the miniature from the lower border of the calendar of a book of hours. Despite its small size, Bening's landscape achieves a monumentality associated with larger contemporary panel paintings, where the genre of landscape painting was developing along similar lines.