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Peculiar behaviour

In his painting, Bruegel invites us to a village populated by countless figures, which fill every space in the panel. Each character is focused on his tasks, most of which seem, on closer inspection, to be rather peculiar.

Metaphorical dimension

These details make no sense at first sight. But the key to understanding this masterpiece lies in its metaphorical dimension: these villagers are enacting more than 120 proverbs and sayings, each metaphor turned into a literal depiction.

Topsy-turvy world

Every figure and every little scene belongs to Bruegel’s concept of the “topsy-turvy world”. As a symbol for this, the painter introduces his composition with a cross-bearing globe, symbol of the world as well as holy power. The world, here, definitely is upside-down.

Tarts on the roof

The rooftop is covered with numerous tarts. This could have multiple meanings. The saying “there the roof is tiled with tarts” refers on one side to the land of plenty. But it could also describe a fool’s paradise.

Sheep shaving

Here, we see a man shaving a sheep. In relation to his neighbor who works on a pig, this image means “one shears sheep, the other pigs” : some live in luxury, others are in need.

The Dutch Proverbs, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1559

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The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at the National University of Singapore is a leading biodiversity research and education centre in Asia. The museum has retained its very close research links with other biodiversity research centres in the region and continues to actively explore, describe, and document the rich plant and animal life of Southeast Asia and nearby areas.

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Smokin' locals

Edward Hopper's painting includes people from all walks of life. Here, workers enjoy a cigarette in a cafe.

Rouge tints

In the middle of the picture you can see a woman looking around the cafe. Her red make-up compliments the flushed neck of the seated man in front.

Send in the clowns

The focus of the painting is a sad clown, smoking a cigarette. The mood of the clown is portrayed through the blue tones in the background.

Soir Bleu, Edward Hopper, 1914

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