Bruegel’s picture Dutch Proverbs contains more than a hundred proverbs, many of which have not been guessed, and some are still used in our life.
The art historians are still engaged in identifying many proverbs, and more than a hundred proverbs and popular expressions have already been found in the picture. We see in the center of the picture a pergola in which a person confesses to the devil. At the same time, a monk nearby mocks Jesus Christ, attaching an artificial beard to him. The roof covered with cakes is an illustration of the winged “Paradise of Fools”, and the absence of a part of the tile on it is a kind of prototype of the modern “walls have ears”.
The man on the tower is engaged in aimless work – “throws feathers in the wind,” and his friend “keeps his cloak in the wind,” that is, he adjusts his convictions to circumstances. A woman gazing at a stork is practically “considered by a raven.” There are many more interesting characters in the picture: the girl who swaddled the devil with a pillow, the girl carries a smoking smut and a bucket of water, the other teaches her husband horns, more precisely covers it with a blue raincoat, one person tries to open his mouth wider than a pipe, that is, it overestimates her possibilities… And many, many others, corresponding to proverbs, phrases and expressions.
In general, the author’s goal was not just to collect a multitude of proverbs on one canvas, but also to condemn stupidity, destruction, immorality. Most proverbs ridicule or reproach people with various vices: gluttony, greed, lust, pride, etc. All this folklore panorama is skeptical criticism of the artist’s contemporaries, which is not imposed on the viewer, but is demonstrated in the actions of the people in the picture, most often quite ridiculous, along with ordinary villagers.
In order to finally make it clear how exaggerated and at the same time close to reality is the composition, the author draws an ordinary globe, but turned upside down, symbolizing the inversion of the world and the onset of chaos based on what has already shaken normal life.
Thus, Bruegel conveyed multiple folklore in his picture, and also expressed his displeasure, denouncing many evils and problems of the time in the most visible forms.