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Two Monkeys

Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Two Monkeys

Pieter Bruegel the Elder
  • Original Title: Twee geketende apen
  • Date: 1562
  • Style: Northern Renaissance
  • Period: Antwerp Period (1554-1562)
  • Genre: animal painting
  • Media: oil, oak
  • Dimensions: 20 x 23 cm
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Bruegel's Two Monkeys is seen as a “small allegory” in which the monkeys represent foolish sinners, and their imprisonment is the result of an immoderate attitude towards material wealth. The monkey on the left signifies avarice; the monkey on the right, prodigality, a conclusion based on an analysis of Bruegel's unusual composition (with its polarized and contrasted figures), a comparison with other 16th-century compositions depicting monkeys, and the observation that the Two Monkeys has a fundamental resemblance to another Bruegel painting, the Dulle Griet (Mad Meg). The similarity between these two works and the contextual evidence (the art, literature, and pageantry of the period) support the view that Bruegel's subject was the improper use of wealth — a central issue for humanist Christians in the Low Countries in the 1560's.

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