Bruegel the Elder, whose son was drawn by Van Dyck, was considered the greatest Flemish painter of the 16th century. His output was varied, producing paintings of everyday people, landscapes and fantastical, nightmarish worlds.

In 1551, he travelled to Italy; this drawing is the only surviving visual evidence of his visit to Rome. It is also the first example of a view with such a low viewpoint. In the foreground, he depicts a man drawing water from the Tiber in a bucket, his mule taking the opportunity to drink from the river. To his left, a dog barks at passengers in a boat being rowed to the far shore. There, the old Customs House, destroyed in the 18th century, rises above the Roman port.

This drawing shows Bruegel's skill in depicting views, but also his observation of everyday life, foreshadowing the great Netherlandish genre paintings of the 17th century.

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