The Beggars, 1509

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Groups of beggars were a common sight in the countryside of northern Europe, they constituted a class of itinerants including pilgrims, peddlers and drunkards. The contemporary populace was wary of beggars as depraved, dishonest and dissipated individuals, worthy of scorn, ridicule and satire. The present composition may well be an allegory of sloth. The beggar, seated to the left, with an outstretched hand is probably a cobbler --identifiable by an awl pinned to his hat. During this era, cobblers were often cited as those tempted by and willingly embracing a dissolute life --unemployed; a bag-pipe player. The woman --hand-in-blouse and offering an open vessel between her legs is a symbol of eroticism. She seems to be amenable to trading favors for whatever the donor presents in his bowl.

The Beggars
Artist Life
c. 1490 - 1533
Accession Number
Catalogue Raisonne
H.143 os; B.143, 415; V.145
Curator Approved

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