Art

Proverbial painting of Pieter Brueghel

Nederlandse Spreekwoorden - Proverbial painting of Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden – Proverbial painting of Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Proverbial painting of Pieter Brueghel the Elder
“Nederlandse Spreekwoorden” or Netherlandish Proverbs, also known as The Topsy-Turvy World was painted in 1559, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. The large scale painting depicts the literal meanings of Dutch proverbs. Displayed in the Berlin art gallery “Nederlandse Spreekwoorden” is filled with symbols related to more than a hundred well-known Dutch proverbs and sayings. Not all of them have been deciphered by modern scholars, as some expressions have been forgotten. Five years later, in 1564, the country was described proverbially by French writer Rabelais in his novel “Pantagruel”. With great artistic power Brueghel painted absurdity and foolishness of humans. The oil-on-oak-panel painting was originally entitled “The Blue Cloak or The Folly of the World”. His son made about 20 copies of his father’s painting, but not all copies exactly reproduce the original, differing from it in a few details.

Proverbial painting of Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Painting of Pieter Brueghel the Elder

The herring does not fry here (It’s not going according to plan), To fry the whole herring for the sake of the roe (To do too much to achieve a little), To get the lid on the head (To end up taking responsibility)

Proverbial painting of Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Proverbial painting of Pieter Brueghel

The journey is not yet over when one can discern the church and steeple (Do not give up until the task is fully complete), If the blind lead the blind both will fall in the ditch (There is no point in being guided by others who are equally ignorant).

Proverbial painting of Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Proverbial painting of Pieter Brueghel

To bell the cat (To carry out a dangerous or impractical plan), To be armed to the teeth (To be heavily armed), To put your armor on (To be angry).

Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
Painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

To kiss the ring of the door (To be obsequious), To wipe one’s backside on the door (To treat something lightly), One beggar pities the other standing in front of the door (Being afraid for competition).

Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
Proverbial painting of Pieter Brueghel

In this detail there are three proverbs. 1. Where the corn decreases the pig increases (If one person gains then another must lose), 2. Where the gate is open the pigs will run into the corn (Disaster ensues from carelessness), 3. To run like one’s backside is on fire (To be in great distress).

Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

If I am not meant to be their keeper, I will let geese be geese (Do not interfere in matters that are not your concern), Who knows why geese go barefoot? (There is a reason for everything, though it may not be obvious).

Proverbial painting of Pieter Brueghel

Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
The scissors hang out there (They are liable to cheat you there)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
The sow pulls the bung (Negligence will be rewarded with disaster)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
The world is turned upside down (Everything is the opposite of what it should be)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To always gnaw on a single bone (To continually talk about the same subject)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To bang one’s head against a brick wall (To try to achieve the impossible), One foot shod, the other bare (Balance is paramount)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To be a hen feeler (To depend on an uncertain outcome)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To be a pillar-biter (To be a religious hypocrite)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To be unable to see the sun shine on the water (To be jealous of another’s success)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To carry the day out in baskets (To waste one’s time)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To cast roses before swine (To waste effort on the unworthy)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To catch fish without a net (To profit from the work of others)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To confess to the Devil (To reveal secrets to one’s enemy)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To crap on the gallows (To be undeterred by any penalty), To keep one’s eye on the sail (To stay alert, be wary)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To crap on the world (To despise everything)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To drag the block (To be deceived by a lover or to work at a pointless task)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To even be able to tie the devil to a pillow (Obstinacy overcomes everything)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To fall from the ox onto the rear end of an ass (To fall on hard times)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To fill the well after the calf has already drowned (To take action only after a disaster)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To fish behind the net (To miss an opportunity)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To gaze at the stork (To waste one’s time)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To hang one’s cloak according to the wind (To adapt one’s viewpoint to the current opinion)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To have the roof tiled with tarts (To be very wealthy)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To have the world spinning on one’s thumb (To have every advantage)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To have to stoop to get on in the world (To succeed one must be willing to make sacrifices)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To have toothache behind the ears (To be a malingerer)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To hold a candle to the Devil (To flatter and make friends indiscriminately)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To look through one’s fingers (To turn a blind eye), There hangs the knife (To issue a challenge)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To marry under the broomstick (To live together without marrying), To stick out the broom (To have fun while the master is away)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To play on the pillory (To attract attention to one’s shameful acts)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To see bears dancing (To be starving), Wild bears prefer each other’s company (Peers get along better with each other than with outsiders)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To sit between two stools in the ashes (To be indecisive)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To sit on hot coals (To be impatient)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To throw one’s cowl over the fence (To discard something without knowing whether it will be required later)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To tie a flaxen beard to the face of Christ (To hide deceit under a veneer of Christian piety)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To toss feathers in the wind (To work fruitlessly)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
To yawn against the oven (To attempt more than one can manage)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
Two dogs over one bone seldom agree (To argue over a single point)
Nederlandse Spreekwoorden
Two fools under one hood (Stupidity loves company), It grows out of the window (It cannot be concealed), To shave the fool without lather (To trick somebody)
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Everything, however finely spun, finally comes to the sun (Nothing can be hidden forever)
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Fear makes the old woman trot (An unexpected event can reveal unknown qualities)
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Fools get the best cards (Luck can overcome intelligence), To lead each other by the nose (To fool each other)
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
He who has spilt his porridge cannot scrape it all up again ( Once something is done it cannot be undone)
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
It depends on the fall of the cards (It is up to chance)
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Leave at least one egg in the nest (Always have something in reserve)
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Love is on the side where the money bag hangs (Love can be bought), To pull to get the longest end (To attempt to get the advantage)
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Never believe someone who carries fire in one hand and water in the other (To be two-faced and to stir up trouble)
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
One shears sheep, the other shears pigs, Shear them but do not skin them (One has all the advantages, the other none)
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
One winds on the distaff what the other spins (Both spread gossip)
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Sharks eat smaller fish (Anything people say will be put in perspective according to their level of importance)
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
She puts the blue cloak on her husband (She deceives him)

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