The Hunters in the Snow

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For the short story by Tobias Wolff, see Hunters in the Snow (short story).
The Hunters in the Snow
Pieter Bruegel the Elder - Hunters in the Snow (Winter) - Google Art Project.jpg
Artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Year 1565
Type Oil on wood panel
Dimensions 117 cm × 162 cm (46 in × 63 34 in)
Location Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

The Hunters in the Snow (Dutch: Jagers in de Sneeuw), also known as The Return of the Hunters, is a 1565 oil-on-wood painting by Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The Northern Renaissance work is one of a series of six, five of which still survive, that depict different times of the year. The painting is in the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria.


The painting shows a wintry scene in which three hunters are returning from an expedition accompanied by their dogs. By appearances the outing was not successful; the hunters appear to trudge wearily, and the dogs appear downtrodden and miserable. One man carries the "meagre corpse of a fox" illustrating the paucity of the hunt. The overall visual impression is one of a calm, cold, overcast day; the colors are muted whites and grays, the trees are bare of leaves, and wood smoke hangs in the air. Several adults and a child prepare food at an inn with an outside fire.

The landscape itself is a flat-bottomed valley (a river meanders through it) with jagged peaks visible on the far side. A watermill is seen with its wheel frozen stiff. In the distance, figures ice skate, play hockey with modern style sticks and curl on a frozen lake; they are rendered as silhouettes.

Interpretation and reception[edit]

External video
Jäger im Schnee - Gebirge und Burg.jpg
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Hunters in the Snow (Winter), 1565, Smarthistory

The 1560s was a time of religious revolution in the Netherlands, and Bruegel (and possibly his patron) may be attempting to portray an ideal of what country life used to be or what they wish it to be.

Writing in the "opinion" section of Nature, art historian Martin Kemp points out that Old Masters are popular subjects for Christmas cards and states that "probably no 'secular' subject is more popular than ... Hunters in the Snow".[1]

Hunters in the Snow is used extensively in Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky's films Solaris (1972) and The Mirror (1974), and in Lars von Trier's 2011 film Melancholia. It appears also in Alain Tanner's film Dans la ville blanche (1983).


  1. ^ Kemp, Martin (December 2008). "Looking at the face of the Earth". Nature 456 (18): 876. doi:10.1038/456876a. 

Further reading[edit]