From 1559 to 1569, Bruegel lived in the Hoogstraat in the Marollen district of Brussels. He visited the villages to the south-west of Brussels in search of themes; the Pede Valley that flows through Dilbeek and Itterbeek was the source of much of his inspiration. In The Blind Leading the Blind, the village church of St. Anna Pede can be recognised just as it looks today:
St. Pieter’s church in Itterbeek can be spotted in The Harvesters:
In The Magpie on the Gallows, the watermill at Pede is included in the background:
The winding river, apple trees and fields in The Peasant and the Nest Robber are typical of the Pajottenland landscape in the area surrounding Dilbeek:
The Bruegel Open Air Museum in Dilbeek was opened in 2004 to trace the links between Bruegel’s paintings and the landscapes that inspired them. Accessible by foot or bicycle, it offers a unique opportunity to admire 19 large-scale waterproof reproductions of Bruegel’s paintings in the very spots where they were painted. On the eight-kilometre Bruegel path along the Pede Valley, walkers come across 11 paintings, while seven others can be found on the 20-kilometre Bruegel cycle route. Many of the reproductions were selected because they contain recognisable elements of Dilbeek.
Both routes start from the church of St. Anna Pede, which can be reached from Brussels South Station by De Lijn bus number 118. Leaflets describing the Bruegel walk (free) and the cycle route (â‚¬1.75), as well as a more comprehensive booklet (â‚¬3) describing the paintings in the Open Air Museum, can be picked up at Dilbeek Cultural Centre, Gemeenteplein, Groot-Bijgaarden.