Anonymous: Parrot Shooting (1566)

(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

A political print by an anonymous artist. Depicted is a so-called 'Parrot Shooting' (in Dutch 'papagaaischieten') which is was a contest in which people, often members of a civic guard, would compete against each other by shooting pieces of a mock bird (the 'parrot') mounted on a pole. The person who was able to shoot the last remaining piece of this mock bird would win the contest and was crowned as 'king of marksmen', a title which the winner held until the next year's competition. In this case the contestants are divided into two groups: the Dutch protestant rebels ('Geuzen') on the left and catholic monks on the right. The Dutch protestants are firing with straight arrows while the catholic monks use curved arrows and therefore are unable to hit their target. The Dutch on the left hold up a bird which is marked with the text 'inquisition' - signaling that they have won the trophy.

The plate has several lines in Dutch:

On the left (above the Dutch rebels):
Elck schiet vrij stoutelijck ic wedde en ick raeye
dat wij Geux af schieten sullen de papagaeye
Den pijlmaker moeten wij weten danck
Want hij heeft ons pijlen gemaeckt recht en lanck

Translated this means:
Everyone shoots bravely and hits
We Geuzen will shoot of the parrot
We have to thank the arrow-maker
Because he has made our arrows long and straight


On the right (above the catholic monks):
Laet ons schieten en worpen nement al .onser baten
D'inquisitie is af wij mochtent nu wel al laten
Wij sijn bedrooghen men weet waeromme
Ons pijlen en vliegen niet en sijn cort en cromme

Translated this means:
Let us shoot and throw with all out might
The inquisition is off, we may well stop now
We have been cheated and we know why
Our arrows don't fly and are short and curved


A the top of the plate: "Elck verlangt hier met herten zeere Wie ten lesten sal hebben prijs en Eere" ('Every one here wants to win the price and honour with all their heart')

The background of this plate is the situation in The Netherlands between 1560 and 1567. The Netherlands (Modern Belgium & the Netherlands) were  part of the Spanish empire during that period. The protestant faith was becoming popular in these regions and Spain wanted to establish the inquisition in order to restore religious order. The Dutch nobles (led by the nobles Count Lamoral of Egmont, count Philip de Montmorency of Horn and Prince William 'the silent' of Orange) resisted against send the inquisition as it would only cause more problems in an already political and religious unstable region. After the Iconoclastic Fury ('Beeldenstorm') in the Low Countries in 1566, the Spanish send Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba with a large army to the low countries as governor of the Netherlands. Upon arriving in 1567 he almost immediately instituted the inquisition in the low countries and had Count Lamoral of Egmont & count Philip de Montmorency of Horn arrested and executed for treason (Prince William 'the silent' of Orange was also a target but he managed to escape) - alienating the Dutch nobles. As predicted the situation in the low countries escalated and in 1568 the Dutch war of independence broke out which resulted in Dutch independence after almost 80 years of fighting in 1648. Print from 1566.

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