Görel Cavalli-Björkman – The Laughing Jester

Cavalli-Björkman, at the time curator at the National Museum in Stockholm, wrote this paper when the museum acquired the ‘Laughing Jester’, the first in our ‘Five Guys Named Moe’ series of fool-peeping-through-fingers paintings, this one also being the front cover image of Fools Are Everywhere.

Mulling this quirky gesture, she drew on a German and Dutch proverb in which the finger-peep is equivalent to the English ‘Turning a blind eye’.  The paper includes two others in our series, the Wellesley College ‘Laughing Fool’, and the ‘Jester Looking Through Fingers’.  Cavalli-Björkman moots the possibility that these three paintings are by the same artist, although I see no reason this should be the case.  

The paper is one of two looking at the fool-peeping-through-fingers theme, which was greatly expanded on in a later article by Kenneth Craig.  It also discusses some other fine fool paintings and provides helpful comments on the symbolism of the costumes and their colours. 


Cavalli-Björkman, Görel, ‘The Laughing Jester’, Nationalmuseum Bulletin, Stockholm, 9:2 (1985), pp. 100-109.

Craig, Kenneth, ‘Proverb’s Progress: a Fool Looking Through His Fingers’, in The Great Emporium: The Low countries as a Cultural Crossroad in the Renaissance and the Eighteenth Century (Amsterdam, 1992), pp. 105–36.


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