A ringing endorsement

​Choosing which image to feature as we count down the days to April Fools’, I was thrilled to come across this painting by Philippe Mercier (1689-1760), an artist mainly active in England. 

Entitled ‘The Fool: young boy in the costume of folly’, it is, in my view, highly unlikely that this is anything but a picture of a boy dressed up as a jester in a quite sumptuous and fanciful costume.  Further, to my innocent eye, the style feels like a precursor to Victorian depictions of fools, namely a slightly romanticized appearance following the widespread disappearance of real jesters from courts and noble households.

So, given the rich array of earlier portraits of genuine jesters, and of more true-to-life depictions, why have I chosen to feature this painting for April Fools’?

The hat, that’s why; I’ve studied a thousand images of jester caps but never seen one remotely like this one.   Take a closer look; a doll in a crinoline sitting on his head, her ample skirts bedecked with bells.  This imaginative creation delights me, as I hope it does you.

Also worthy of note the curious juxtaposition of the young boy and his marotte (jester’s stick) with an old lady’s head.  In general, the head of the marotte looks similar to the jester, or at least is the same gender.  I’m also not sure I recall seeing a female-headed marotte.

But it’s the cap which won the day.  Wishing you a merry April Fools.

Image credit: Der Narr, Jeune garçon en costume de folie (1735-40), Philippe Mercier (1689-1760), oil on canvas; private collection, public domain

Fool or jester image - Philippe Mercier - Der Narr: Jeune garçon en costume de folie - painting
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