This unpublished series of panels, depicting episodes from a peasant wedding, constitute one of Marten van Cleve's most popular and influential inventions. Two other sets that can be securely attributed to the artist are known: a set of five panels, known from a sale in Brussels in 1930 and published by Marlier, that have since been dispersed (see G. Marlier, Pierre Brueghel le Jeune, Brussels, 1969, pp. 342-3, figs. 207-10); and a set of six pictures that appeared at Lempertz, Cologne, in 1986 (reproduced in the catalogue of the exhibition, Pieter Breughel - Jan Brueghel, Lingen, 1998, p. 380, figs. 139a-e, under no. 139). The latter includes two additional episodes to those in the present series - the Presentation of wedding gifts and the Departure of the lover, but there is no reason to believe this series is incomplete.
Marten van Cleve was from a family of artists who had moved to Antwerp from Cleves in the late 15th or early 16th century. He became a master in the Antwerp Guild in 1551-2 and, according to Van Mander, followed his brother into the studio of Frans Floris in circa 1553-5. Marten apparently set up his own workshop shortly afterwards, which remained very productive throughout the 1560s and 1570s, concentrating for the most part in producing versions of his own original compositions. This series can safely be dated to this period. While his output was strongly influenced by his contemporary Pieter Bruegel the Elder, his reputation as a Bruegel follower, like Pieter Brueghel II, is unjustified. Not only was he a whole generation younger than the latter artist, but his compositions and subjects, as in the case of the wedding series, were devised himself. Indeed, they provided the basis for countless versions and repetitions by Brueghel the Younger and his studio more than forty years later.
The attribution to Marten van Cleve has been confirmed by Dr. Klaus Ertz in a certificate dated May 2010.