«Gegengabe» in Paremiology, Folklore, Language, and Literature – Honoring Wolfgang Mieder on His Seventieth Birthday
Edited By Christian Grandl and Kevin J. McKenna
Pieter Bruegel the Elder's Netherlandish Proverbs and Similar Proverbs in Traditional Japanese Art
This paper will discuss how proverbs from Pieter Bruegel the Elder's Netherlandish Proverbs of 1559 (fig. 1) are surprisingly related to Japanese proverbs in traditional art, especially in the Edo Period (1600–1867).1 Even though in most cases the phrasing of Dutch and Japanese proverbs differs, there are a few proverbs which bear almost the same phrasing in both languages.
Fig. 1:Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 'Netherlandish Proverbs' (1559); Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Gemäldegalerie (Berlin)
First of all, it is worth mentioning how proverb books became popular before and after Bruegel's time. In Northern Europe from the end of the fifteenth century and throughout the sixteenth century, proverbs played an important role in both public and private lives, and they were used for pronouncing sentences at court, in giving speeches in parliamentary sessions and sermons in churches. As Walter S. Gibson describes, "proverbs, as generally acknowledged repositories of wisdom and as ornaments of rhetorical persuasion, have long been quoted much as modern preachers quote scripture" (2010:6). ← 259 | 260 →
The earliest printed proverb publication is the Dutch-Latin book, Proverbia Communia, constituting a collection of 803 vernacular proverbs (Jente, 1947). This book appeared in Deventer from 1480 as a textbook for children learning at the Latin school there. Erasmus studied there too. Erasmus' Adagiorum Collectanea was first published in 1500 in Paris with 818 proverbs. After several versions, it finally collected 4,251...
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