Pieter Aertsen was trained in Amsterdam, but worked for much of his career in Antwerp, where he enrolled in the Guild of St. Luke as a master painter. He was particularly known for his important religious paintings and monumental genre scenes. This is one of his most important large religious works because it survived the Beeldenstorm of 1566, a rebellious event in the Netherlands during which religious paintings and sculptures were destroyed. Later in life, Aertsen returned to his native Amsterdam and remained there until his death.
The large size of this work permits the artist to depict a continuous narrative in one painting. The subject of this very involved picture comes from the Bible. In Matthew 22 verses 1-14, Jesus describes how a king invited his subjects to celebrate the marriage of his son. When no one came to the marriage feast, the king commanded his servants to go out and collect people both “good and bad” to attend the event. As the king observed his guests, he noticed one who did not wear the appropriate attire for the celebration. Because of this infraction, the king had the man bound and cast into darkness. The parable of the marriage feast ends with the words “many are called, but few are chosen.”
One of the most striking aspects of this scene is the combination of ancient ruins with contemporary sixteenth-century architectural elements from Rome. These kinds of buildings were known through the many drawings and prints done by other northern artists traveling to Rome.
“I like the idea it represents. Just because you are called doesn’t mean you will be chosen.” – anonymous
Keep an eye out every week for more visitor favorites. We will be highlighting each of the top fifty pieces during our 50th Anniversary year. If you want a more intimate encounter, stop by the museum and see these masterpieces for yourself!