Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Battle of the Moneybags and the Strongboxes (1563)

(Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands)

This is an satirical etching from Pieter Bruegel the elder. During his life, the political situation in the Netherlands (Modern Belgium and the Netherlands) started to worsen and there were several rebellions against the Spanish government (eventually this would lead to the Dutch war of independence, 1568-1648). Influenced by this, Bruegel criticizes the folly of men by showing an upside down world, in this print the folly of war. On the bottom there are a set of poems. The top part is in Latin:

"Quid modo diuitie, quid fului vasta metalli, Congeries, nummis arca referta nouis, Illecebres inter tantas, atque agmina furum, Inditium cunctis efferus vncus erit, Preda facit furem, feruens mala cuncta ministrant, Impetus, et spolys apta rapina feris.”

[The savage hook will reveal to all the riches, the vast heap of gleaming metal, the strong box stuffed with new coins among these great enticements, and the ranks of thieves.  Booty makes the thief, the assault that serves all evil helps him, and so does the pillage suitable for furious spoils.]

The bottom part is in Flemish:
"Wel aen ghij Spaerpotten, Tonnen, en Kisten. T'is al om gelt en goet, dit... striden en twisten. Al seetmen u oec anders, willet niet ghelouen. Daerom vuren wij den haec die ons noijt en miste, Men soect wel actie om ons te uerdoouen, Maer men souwer niet krijgen, waerder niet te roouen"

[You money-boxes, barrels and chests.  It’s all about gold and goods, this fighting and quarreling.  Even if someone tells you otherwise, don’t believe it.  Therefore we fire the musket which never has failed us.  They try to find means to silence us, but they shall not find it unless there is nothing to rob.]

Design of the print is by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. The etching itself was done by Pieter van der Heyden. This etching is dated to about 1563.

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