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Work Parade with a Fatted Ox, also known as The Parade with the Easter Ox

Department of Paintings: Dutch painting

Le Cortège du boeuf gras, dit Cortège du "boeuf de Pâques''

© 1992 RMN / Gérard Blot / Hervé Lewandowski

Dutch painting

Collange Adeline

The painting depicts the annual parade organized by the Dutch guild of butchers and its highlight, a prize-winning ox, wearing a floral garland. Note the important detail of the glasses on the animal's rump. The painting also refers to the brevity of human existence; the ox is happy but will shortly be slaughtered for meat.

A Carnival tradition

Philips Wouwermans chose as his subject one of the popular celebrations of the final days of the Carnival, the parade with a fatted ox. A fatted ox or bull was led through the streets of the town before being slaughtered on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. One of the finest oxen was chosen for the parade, and garlands of flowers and leaves were hung around its neck. The parade was also a reminder of the frailty of human life, as the ox was the star of the parade one day and slaughtered the next. In Holland, the parade was organized by the butchers' guilds. Here the impassive ox is being led through the streets by two butchers, as indicated by their aprons.

A joyful parade

This popular subject allowed Wouwermans to depict a number of amusing figures. A joyful escort noisily heralds the arrival of the ox: at the head of the procession is a musician dressed in bright red playing a drum, along with a little boy holding a hoop. The parade has attracted a crowd of onlookers, including many children. There is a peasant doffing his cap, a woman with her young daughter, a man on horseback with his little boy behind him, and a young scamp scared off by the huge size of the ox. It is easy to imagine the din that must have accompanied the procession-dogs barking, the banging of the drum, and drunken butchers bawling songs. Note that two glasses perch on the rump of the ox, while one of the butchers is knocking back a third glass.

An artist with many talents

Philips Wouwermans is the best-known member of a family of painters from Haarlem. He studied under the great artist Frans Hals and learned to imitate his master's rapid, nervous brushstrokes. This painting is the perfect illustration of Wouwermans' many talents. He was a genre painter who excelled at depicting figures with distinctive expressions and also horses. During his career, he painted many scenes of cavalcades-the white horse in this work is a fine-looking beast-as well as landscapes. The figures are drawn with fairly precise, elegant lines, while the rendering of background of houses and a little bridge over the river shows a lighter touch. The pale golden tones of the background are influenced by artists such as Pieter van Laer, known as Il Bamboccio, who were themselves inspired by the Italian style. The painting as a whole recreates the carefree atmosphere of unrestrained pleasure that must have reigned during such Carnival celebrations.


Ramade P., Wouwermans : la Foire aux chevaux de Valkenburg, Rennes, Musée des Beaux Arts (L'oeuvre du mois, vol.4), 1980.

Technical description

  • Philips WOUWERMANS (Haarlem, 1619 - Haarlem, 1668)

    Le Cortège du boeuf gras, dit Cortège du "boeuf de Pâques''

    Vers 1650/1655, du début de la période de maturité de l'artiste

  • H. : 0,47 m. ; L. : 0,41 m.

  • Collection de Louis XVI : acquis à la vente Locquet, Amsterdam, 1783

    INV. 1951

  • Paintings

    Richelieu wing
    2nd floor
    Holland, second half of the 17th century
    Room 836

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Additional information about the work

Signed with the monogram PHILS. W