A series of engravings illustrating the famous satirical poem of the Middle Ages were made in 1498 on paper and a fragment of specially crafted wood by the famous German artist and engraver Albrecht Dürer.
A drawing illustrating the book has also been preserved. The sheet is divided into two equal parts. In the upper half, a group of people rides in a drawn cart.
The wagon looks unusually bulky, roughly knocked together, on two huge wheels. The riders on their heads - clownish caps, decorated with bells. Faces resemble strange masks with frozen grimaces. The artist very ingeniously emphasized the ugliness, the grotesque nature of the inhabitants of the ridiculous cart. All this gives the viewer the understanding that not ordinary people went on a trip - fools went on a trip. The cart carries everyone to the marina, where a transfer to the ship is expected.
In the background of the upper part you can see the outlines of the castle on a high hill - the company drives through towns and villages, rides wherever they look.
In the lower half of the sheet in the foreground is a ship crowded with people, and two boats, also full of fools. One boat accompanies the ship, the second, in the background of the picture, convinces the viewer of the mass navigation. They swim, not imagining where, to which coast their current will bring. The company has a different mood, everyone is busy with his own business. In the background image, a part of the land is guessed, which allegorically can remind you of the opportunity to be saved, to find solid ground under your feet. The sheet music in the right corner is the melody of a song performed by sea travelers. The initial words, also made by Old German Gothic, are woven into the overall pattern.
From ancient times, the ship symbolized the holy church, so the painter in this case accurately conveys the meaning of the literary basis of the drawing. The poem says that stupidity is considered a sin, and not a disease, a distance from God. Fools do not keep the divine commandments, and only by refusing the worldly fuss can they regain divine grace - eternal salvation.
The illustrations are entitled by a phrase divided into two parts, meaning in German “Ship of Fools” in the original style of the 15th century. The letters are written in Old German, Gothic type, heading each of the halves of the picture.
The original of the old drawing is kept in the USA, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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