the Elder

1525 - 1569


Peasants, Fools and Demons


Renaissance Art Map
Pieter Bruegel the Elder  Peasants, Fools and Demons
    A Brief Life in Dangerous Times
    Antwerp: a Booming City
    The Holy Family in the Snow
    Exploring the World
    Demons in Our Midst
    Village Life
    Nature as Man's Environment
    Not only Peasants
    Pieter the Droll?
    Life and Work






Exploring the World


Netherlandish Proverbs





90 He cannot bear to see the sun shine on the water (my neighbour's property bothers me and I am annoyed at the sun smiling in the water; envy, jealousy).
99 The best straps are cut from someone else's leather (it is easy to dispose of someone else's property).
100 The pitcher goes to the water (the well) until it finally breaks (everything has its limits).
101 He holds an eel by the tail (a difficult undertaking sure to fail).
102 It is ill to swim against the stream (one who revolts and is unwilling to comply with commonly held rules has a hard time of it).
103 He throws his cowl over the fence (he discards the familiar without knowing whether or not he can make it in his new surroundings).
104 This proverb has not been identified with certainty. The following meanings are possible:
a) He sees bears dancing (he is famished).
b) Wild bears prefer each other's company (it is a disgrace if one cannot get along with one's peers).
108 A wall with cracks will soon collapse.
109 It is easy to sail before the wind (under optimal conditions one succeeds easily).
110 He keeps his eye on the sail (he is alert; "To know which way the wind blows").
111 a) Who knows why geese go barefoot? (there is a reason for everything).
b) If I am not meant to be their keeper, I'll let geese be geese.
112 Horse droppings are not figs (don' tbe fooled).
113 He drags the block (a deceived suitor; to slave away at a senseless task).
114 Fear makes the old woman trot (need brings out unexpected qualities).
115 He shits on the gallows (he is not deterred by any penalty; a gallows bird who will come to a bad end).
116 Where the carcass is, there fly the crows.
117 If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch (when an ignoramus leads others, they will come to grief).
118 The journey is not yet over when one can discern church and steeple (the goal is reached only when one has fully completed one's task). One further proverb relates to the sun in the sky: Everything, however finely spun, finally comes to the sun (in the end, nothing remains hidden or unrequited).




59 To put a spoke in someone's wheel (to put an obstacle in the way).
61 He ties a flaxen beard to the face of Christ (deceit often masquerades under the guise of piety).
66 To sit on hot coals (to be anxious and impatient; "To be on needles and pins").
70 He falls through the basket (rejected suitor; to be turned down flat; to fail).
71 He is suspended between heaven and earth (he has got himself into an awkward situation and does not know what he should do).
72 She takes the hen's egg and lets the goose egg go (to make a bad choice as a result of one's greediness).
73 He yawns against the oven; or, he who is determined to out-yawn the oven will have to yawn for a long time (he tries to open his mouth wider than an oven door, that is, he overestimates his ability; "He bites off more than he can chew"; or, it is futile to set oneself up against those who are stronger).
74 He can barely reach from one loaf to the other (he cannot live within his budget).
75 a) He is looking for the hatchet (he is trying to find an excuse).
b) Here he is with his lantern (finally he has an opportunity to let his light shine - to show how smart he his).
76 A hatchet with a handle (the whole thing? -the meaning is unclear).
77 A hoe without a handle (something useless? -of unclear meaning; the object is a dough-scraper).
78 He who has spilt his porridge cannot scrape it all up again (once damage is done, it cannot be completely undone; "It  is no use crying over spilt milk").
79 They pull to get the longest end (a tug-of-war; everyone seeks his own advantage).
80 He hangs on tightly; rather: Love is on the side where the money bag hangs.
81 a) He stands in his own light.
b) No one looks for others in the oven who has not been in there himself (only he who is wicked himself thinks ill of others; "Do not judge others by your own standards").




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