The 120 hidden messages with which Bruegel the Elder portrayed human stupidity

Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525/30-1568) was a wise, quiet and discreet man, but he liked to play pranks, scare his apprentices with ghost stories or dress as a peasant to sneak into weddings, according to his friend and first biographer , Carel van Mander ("the Dutch Vasari"), which explains that he came to be nicknamed Pieter den Drol (Peter the Jester).

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NewsEditor
27 July 2022 Wednesday 01:56
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The 120 hidden messages with which Bruegel the Elder portrayed human stupidity

Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525/30-1568) was a wise, quiet and discreet man, but he liked to play pranks, scare his apprentices with ghost stories or dress as a peasant to sneak into weddings, according to his friend and first biographer , Carel van Mander ("the Dutch Vasari"), which explains that he came to be nicknamed Pieter den Drol (Peter the Jester). "In the company of Franckert [a merchant], Bruegel liked to visit the peasants, at weddings or fairs. The two men dressed like peasants, and even like the other guests they brought gifts, and behaved as if they belonged to family or belonged to the circle of one or the other of the spouses. He loved to observe their customs, their manners at the table, dances, games, forms of courtship, and all the antics they could offer, and that the painter knew how to reproduce, with great sensitivity and humour", relates the also painter and art historian.

Bruegel the Elder did not conceive his costumbrista paintings for the consumption of the peasants, but for the elites, but he drew much of his creative energy from the culture of the poor, the drunkards and the beggars. Give the parties, customs and fantasies of him. Without idealizing them, naming things by his name. In The Flemish Proverbs, an oil on panel that is part of the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, we see men and women from the countryside apparently carrying out everyday tasks. They light candles for the devil, fill a well where a calf has drowned, knead bread or feed pigs. But if we look closely we discover that they are actually strange. A man carries daylight in a basket, another shears pigs, another catches an eel by the tail, and a woman covers her cuckold husband with a blue cloak... And what are those pies doing on the roof? ?

Bruegel hid more than 120 proverbs in the painting not so much to illustrate them as to compose a portrait of absurdity, evil, madness and human stupidity. Also titled The Blue Cloak and The World Upside Down, the painter encourages the viewer to guess the hidden messages, some of which are still part of popular use and others that have already faded, the formulation of which varies according to the different languages.

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