"The Netherlandish Proverbs" by Pieter Brueghel the Younger
March 9 - June 6, 2004
In 1559 the Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted a large village scene filled with bustling
activity entitled The Netherlandish Proverbs (also known as The Flemish Proverbs, The World Upside-Down,
and The Blue Cloak). The activities depicted in the painting illustrate more than one hundred proverbs and
proverbial expressions that were well known to the public at the time of its creation, many of which are
still in common usage today.
The artist's son, Pieter Brueghel the Younger devoted his life to making copies of his father's
paintings (and added an "h" to the spelling of his family name). He made more than twenty copies of
this painting, one of which, created in 1610, will be on exhibit at the Fleming Museum this spring.
The Netherlandish Proverbs is filled with references to 16th- century visual culture presented in a
humorous manner, at the same time that it warns against foolish behavior and addresses the relationship
of the individual to society. Many of the proverbs and proverbial expressions are familiar to us today,
such as "swimming against the tide," "big fish eat little fish," or "throwing roses before swine."
Others are no longer in use, such as to "carry a basket full of daylight" (to devote oneself to
unnecessary labor), or to "have one's roof covered in tarts" (to have an abundance of everything).
This exhibition was conceived by Professor Wolfgang Mieder of the University of Vermont's Department
of German and Russian. An internationally recognized scholar of proverbs, Professor Mieder has organized
a proverb symposium in conjunction with this special exhibition. The Netherlandish Proverbs has been
generously loaned to the Fleming Museum from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Klapper.
The exhibition has been made possible by a major grant from the John Templeton Foundation and
the support of the Provost's Office, the Graduate College, the College of Arts and Sciences, and
the Department of German and Russian at the University of Vermont.