Roundel with Three Apes Building a Trestle Table


On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 10

Whether this scene was intended to convey anything beyond its obvious whimsy is uncertain. Fables and moralities abounded throughout the Middle Ages, satirizing those who attempted functions for which they were totally unsuited, as, for example, an illiterate working as a librarian. Here, the composition brings to mind alphabets by such artists as the Master E.S., in which the letters are formed by contorted figures or by the arrangement of everyday objects. With its seriflike corners, the tabletop resembles the letter I. Are the apes in the process of deconstructing an alphabet?

Roundel with Three Apes Building a Trestle Table, Colorless glass, vitreous paint and silver stain, German

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