BRUEGEL, Pieter the Elder
(b. ca. 1525, Brogel, d. 1569, Brussels)
Oil on canvas, diameter 86 cm
Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples
The Dutch inscription reads: 'Because the world is perfidious, I am going into mourning'. The moral of the painting is that such a relinquishment of the world is not possible: one must face up to the world's difficulties, not abandon responsibility for them. The hooded misanthrope is being robbed by the small figure in a glass ball, a symbol of vanity. His action shows how impossible it is to give up the world. The misanthrope is also walking unawares towards the mantraps set for him by the world. He cannot renounce it as he would wish, and he is contrasted with the shepherd in the background who guards his sheep and who is more virtuous than the misanthrope because of his simple, honourable performance of his duties, his sense of responsibility towards his charges.