The Misanthrope

7:00 AM

Pieter Bruegel the Elder,  The Misanthrope, 1562


Pieter Bruegel the Elder depicts the ethical plight of the rural peasant class in this work. The man in the black robe, the misanthrope, feeling betrayed by the short comings of society goes into mourning. Bruegel showcases this through the Dutch inscription on the bottom of the piece that says, "Because the world is perfidious, I am going into mourning." The smaller man in tattered clothing attempts to cut the misanthrope's coin purse. Bruegel teaches a valuable moral through the actions of his subjects. The peasant entrenched in a battle with his disorientated conscience ( as shown by the broken sphere around his body) is clearly in the wrong by stealing. Even though the misanthrope is a victim of wrongdoings, he symbolically becomes a barer of bad news similar to the grim reaper. 

The Netherlandish painter was greatly influenced by the work of Hieronymus Bosch. Bruegel framed his work similarly to previous works of Bosch. Like his previous paintings, Bruegel depicts rural farm life including various livestock. He illustrates barren fields with light brush strokes of many brown hues. Bruegel frames his piece in a circle in order to show that the condition of the misanthrope can be universal. One can easily be phased by the tragedies of the world around us. Bruegel urges his audience to persevere and not mourn like the misanthrope, but rather to grab the world by its purse strings like the secondary subject.

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