Les Proverbes flamands

Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, Germany

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l'Ancien Pieter Brueghel, 1559

Northern Renaissance
allegorical painting

Also entitled The Blue Cloak or The Topsy Turvy World, this painting contains a literal illustration of idioms and aphorisms of 16th century Flemish life. Whereas some of the idioms have been lost to history, others are still relevant and in use today. Although other artists and authors had produced paintings and books on proverbs, this painting is considered to be the first large-scale rendition of the theme. The proverbs, of which there are over 100, as well as the early titles, are meant to illustrate human stupidity and foolishness. The painting was so popular that Pieter Brueghel the Younger reproduced up to twenty copies of it, many of which included various renditions on the proverbs.

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