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Figures of Speech

Picturing Proverbs in Renaissance Netherlands

Walter S. Gibson (Author)

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 256 pages
ISBN: 9780520259546
March 2010
$85.00, £71.00
Figures of Speech addresses a key topic in Renaissance studies: the importance and pervasiveness of proverbs. For sixteenth-century Netherlanders, proverbs revealed the wisdom of the Ancients as well as the linguistic richness found in their own native language; for Pieter Bruegel, Hieronymus Bosch, and other Renaissance painters, proverbs were a frequent and appealing subject. In this book, Walter S. Gibson provides a comprehensive and engaging survey of these visual representations, capturing for twenty-first–century readers the moral sensibilities of a time and culture when such adages (and the images conveying their meaning) were invaluable guides to life.
List of Illustrations

Chapter 1. A Passion for Proverbs
Chapter 2. The Proverb Portrayed
Chapter 3. From Hay to Turnips: The Curious Career of a Bosch Invention
Chapter 4. Loquacious Pictures: Twelve Emblematic Proverb Engravings
Chapter 5. The Battle for the Breeches: A Proverb in the Making

Conclusion: Figures of Fun and Folly

Selected Bibliography
Walter S. Gibson is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities Emeritus at Case Western Reserve University and the author of many books including Pieter Bruegel and the Art of Laughter and Pleasant Places: The Rustic Landscape from Bruegel to Ruisdael, both from UC Press.
“Gibson gives a rich account.”—Burlington Magazine
"In three rich case studies, the author . . . subtly weaves together a wide range of fascinating sources and images."—Odilia Bonebakker Sehepunkte
"Richly illustrated . . . Gibson intertwines elaborate descriptions and visual representations of hybrid forms of proverbial expression and presents a wide network of intertextual links through extensive referential evidence."—The European Legacy: Toward New Paradigms
“Walter Gibson, dean of Bruegel scholars, has done it again. His new book, like the proverbs it studies, instructs gently yet plainly in compact size. While it figures forth the depths of Bruegel's own passion for proverbs, this wide-ranging period study also shows the cultural breadth of Dutch proverbs in other media, including the witty world of urban rhetoricians. These 'loquacious pictures' have their adept translator in Walter Gibson.”—Larry Silver, author of Peasant Scenes and Landscapes

“This is an important book for anyone interested in the representation of the verbal in Northern Renaissance art, and Gibson, who has long conveyed the latest research into Netherlandish iconography to the English-speaking world, an authoritative guide to this neglected aspect of the intellectual climate of the period. Here is new light illuminating some of the lesser-known works of Bosch and Bruegel, but also those of much less well-known artists who chose to pictorialise the idiom in an era—as this study triumphantly demonstrates—in which the proverb came into its own and the verbal became visual not just in manuscripts and paintings but in the very market-place.”—Malcolm Jones, author of The Secret Middle Ages

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