Dose of Art #191: Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen? – Laughing Fool (c. 1500)

Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun, it shines everywhere.
—William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (3.1.39-40)

It is funny that a five-hundred-year-old painting still can make us laugh. It also says something about the painter who was able to paint the laughing fool in such a way it still appeals to us. Although attributed to Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen, this is not sure as it is not signed.

The fool – or Jester- wears the typical bi-colour costume with a hood containing the ears of an ass. In his left arm, he holds a wooden Marotte; a bauble with a fools head carved at the end. This was not so much a mark of their profession (the costume already makes it clear we are dealing with a jester), but it had probably practical uses when entertaining his public. The bauble allowed the fool to point out specific persons, waving it around, tapping in on the ground to demand attention or even hitting someone with it.

The wooden Marotte with a jester head on the end.

In his right hand, he holds the metal frame of glasses. This was also used for entertainment (it contains no glass, so it had no practical usage); holding it before his eyes, he could mock persons wearing real glasses or demand extra attention to any subject of person he was eying with it.

The metal frame of glasses.

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