Brueghel's The Wedding Dance to bring $3m to Christie's?

Two important, fresh to the market works by 16th century Flemish painter Pieter Brueghel the Younger (nicknamed "Hell Brueghel" for his depictions of fire and grotesquery) are to go under the hammer at Christie's New York on June 5.

The Wedding Dance
Although The Wedding Dance was painted in the 1500s, the colours remain startling vibrant and the subject matter wholly familiar

The Wedding Dance, which has been given a $2m-3m estimate by the auction house, might be understood as an accurate historical record of peasant life.

Many art historians, however, argue that the provincial scene - rife with allegorical overtones - is, in fact, a warning against engaging in lewd and hedonistic behaviours.

The Wedding Dance features a riotous party peopled with a large group of peasants celebrating the marriage of a local couple.

Rambunctious dancers parade between a pair of trees which punctuate the foreground, while the bride - enjoying her role as "queen for the day" - sits at a trestle table in the middle distance, a crown atop her head, patently ignoring the jugs of mead being guzzled as she, and those gathered around her, survey the pile of pewter coins which have been heaped onto a charger in front of her.

A second Brueghel work, The Drunkard pushed into the Pigsty, has a similarly moralising impetus.

A combination of lust, gluttony and drunkenness is at once represented, and admonished, by the artist.

Yet, although the pig has long been a symbol of excess, and the drunkard is being publically shamed, the work is profoundly - and probably purposefully - humorous.

Estimated to be worth $500,000-700,000, the present example of The Drunkard pushed into the pigsty is one of only two signed versions of the image, and the only example remaining in private hands.

Not to be outdone, Sotheby's New York is to auction a previously unpublished painting by the artist on June 6, in what promises to be a fine week for old masters in the city.

Comparable works by Pieter Brueghel the Younger have previously brought seven figure sums. In July 2001, a signed composition featuring a bustling village scene sold for £3.9m ($5.9) at Sotheby's.

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