The “Ship Of Fools” And The “Blue Barge”: Popular Constructs, Humanistic Thought And Visuality




the ship of fools, the blue barge, the Humanism, jester, H. Bosch, P. Bruegel the Elder


In this article, we aim to analyse the peculiarities of the interactions between the text and image taking two compilations as examples – the “Ship of fools” and the “Blue barge”. We will start from the very beginning, when they started taking their shape in the late medieval times until the Renaissance when they underwent some changes.

Both compilations had been shaped by H. Teichner and J. van Oestvoren in their poems of the early 15th century. However, the “ship of fools” underwent a considerable transformation in the humanistic culture. In the speech of J. Gall as well as in the eponym poem by S. Brant it turned from the image with a strong moralistic bias into a symbol of universal Folly and madness. Later Erasmus of Rotterdam in his “Praise of Folly” will refine the idea of Folly – Moria – that rules over the world.  Illustrations for the “Ship of fools” underlined the universal character of the Folly as far as only jesters and not the ordinary people were depicted on the woodcuts.

The “blue barge” did not undergo such a substantial change. It was not included in the “big narratives” of the humanists and thereby remained in the semantic limits of the “bürgermoral”. Nevertheless, it did go beyond the framework of the popular culture. Its way to the “high culture” passed through the artworks by H. Bosch, P. van der Heyden and P. Bruegel the Elder. Painters visualized not just existing carnival practices, but also features of the burger and patrician ethics, which enriched the construct of the “blue barge” and popularized it among different strata of the early modern Netherlandish society.






How to Cite

The “Ship Of Fools” And The “Blue Barge”: Popular Constructs, Humanistic Thought And Visuality. (2021). Text and Image: Essential Problems in Art History, 2(2).