Sunday, 15 January 2017

taking owls to athens

I knew a lot of the works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder were allegorical and depicted the foibles and follies of human conventions and his Nederlandse Spreekwoorden—translated by turns as the Flemish Proverbs or The Blue Cloak (for that shock of colour in the middle of the scene, where a woman is shrouding her cuckolded husband so he doesn’t see her adulterous ways—pulling the wool over one’s eyes) is no exception. I was unfamiliar with the fact, however, that some one hundred ten idioms were represented in the painting, many with near equivalents in English, like swimming against the tide, to be armed to the teeth, killing two birds with one stone or banging one’s head against a brick wall. Some of the bawdier sayings also captured have fortunately become outmoded.