Emblem of Folly

After Boetius Adams Bolswert Netherlandish

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 626

The unusual subject of this painting is taken from an emblem book, the Pia Desideria, written by the Dutch Jesuit, Herman Hugo (1588-1629), and illustrated with 46 engravings by Boetius Adams Bolswert (1580-1633). First published in Antwerp in 1624, the Pia Desideria is known in more than 150 editions and translations, making it one of the most popular books of the 17th century. The painting, following an emblem by Bolswert, depicts a confrontation between Anima (the human soul), who appears as a fool, and the winged figure of Amor divina (Divine Love). Anima, wearing a red foolscap adorned with feathers and bells, races about on a hobby horse waving a windmill toy in the air and carrying a cat in a basket (a symbol of lasciviousness). Amor covers her face in shame and points heavenward. A scriptural motto from Psalm 68 inscribed at the feet of the two figures clarifies the meaning of the scene: Deus tu scis insipientiam meam, & deli[cta] mea à te non sunt abscondita. (God, you know my foolishness and my sins are not hidden from thee).The present painting almost certainly formed part of an as yet unidentified pictorial cycle that included other images from the Pia Desideria.

Emblem of Folly, Unknown artist, Peru (Cuzco), Oil on canvas, Peru (Cuzco)

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.