This painting shows an accumulation of anecdotal and proverbial scenes, often truculent, whose meaning is not fully decoded. Two populations coexist: humans and the fools, very tiny, wearing their pointy hat.
In this market atmosphere, humans are trading the fools who are tightly stored in baskets. Farther in the scenery, many released fools take their preferred position over the heads of the humans to whom they are the spirits. The occupations of these people are unreasonable. For example, the most profligate group, the monk kissing a nun, is accompanied by discrete fools.
Beyond the gnomes of Paracelsus, these characters join the great questioning by Erasmus half a century earlier : Who is the fool, who is the wise?
Mechelen counted at some time over one hundred artists' studios, busy in a fast and inexpensive imaging with a fragile technique that did not survive, watercolor or tempera on canvas. This fool market is instead an oil painting that has certainly been used as a modello for the various workshops of the Verbeeck family. Experts attribute it to Frans Verbeeck the Elder who died in 1570.
This extremely rare painting is estimated € 900K, for sale by Dorotheum in Vienna on October 21, lot 33.