H.C. Mêgert: The riddle of Nijmegen or the complicated marriage (1690 - 1710)

(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

A curious print by the artist H.C. Mêgert. This print is a copy of a painting in the Nijmegen Town Hall and shows a family with a complicated family relationship. The text encourages the viewer to solve the riddle of how these people are related to eachother:

The wife of the old man speaks:
“Remark and see that I declare
The two in red are my father’s brothers.
The two in green are my mother’s brothers.
The two in white are my children
and I, the mother, am married to the father of these six
That no degree of kinship can forbid.”

Two two sons in red say:
“We would have regretted if not
our niece had been given to our father
Because she is not our father’s niece
Which nobody would easily guess.”

The two in green say:
“It is remarkable to show in these figures
that he is our natural father
And has married our niece
Which we don’t regret.”

The two in white say:
“Our father is the old man.
Our mother is the young lady.
But tell us how it is possible
That our brothers are our mother’s uncles?”


explanation of the riddle:
- Huybert, the old man, married as his first wife Anna, a widow with a prior son called Gijsbert, and procreates two sons in red: Adam and Arent. 
- After this wife died, the old man married for his second wife a widow named Beel, who had a prior daughter named Jacomijn, and procreates two sons in green: Bertel and Barent. 
- In the mean while, the prior son of the first wife (Gijsbert) married the prior daughter of the second wife (Jacomijn) and procreate a daughter named Charlotte, who then becomes the third wife and procreates two sons in white: Casper and Coenraat.

Print from around 1690 - 1710.


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