BRUEGHEL, Jan the Elder
(b. ca. 1568, Bruxelles, d. 1625, Antwerpen)
Oil on copper, 27 x 36 cm
The theme of the 'singerie' was to become widespread in north European art towards the middle of the 17th century, especially in Flanders where artists such as David Teniers the Younger created entire societies out of monkeys dressed as men. Such scenes were intended to allegorise the futility of man's possessions and actions. Singerie is the French word for 'Monkey Trick'. It is a genre depicting monkeys aping human behaviour, often fashionably attired, intended as a diverting sight, always with a gentle cast of mild satire.
In the present painting it is assumed that the seven monkeys populating the foreground and the four sitting on the draped table surrounding the plate of fruit to be by Jan Brueghel the Elder, with the remaining parts by his son and chief studio assistant at this time, Jan Brueghel the Younger. The plate of fruit itself would also appear to be from the hand of the elder Brueghel.