Folly Steps Down From the Pulpit

​This pen and ink sketch in the margins of an early copy of Erasmus’ Praise of Folly is one of 82 done by Hans Holbein (1497/98-1543) and his elder brother Ambrosius.  In this drawing, the self-appointed goddess Folly, having given a sermon of brazen self-promotion, steps down from the pulpit.  I liked the reference, in one commentary, to her arm being ‘rigid from gesturing’.

Published in 1515, Erasmus’ slim wry classic was a bestseller of its time, although later various authorities, both academic and religious, tried to rein in its irreverent influence, starting with the Sorbonne in 1543.

It’s a joy to read and one of the key works in the Fools’ Canon; see our quote-packed celebration of this timeless work.


Buck, Stephanie, Hans Holbein (Cologne: Könemann, 1999), p. 10.

Müller, Christian; Stephan Kemperdick; Maryan Ainsworth; et al, Hans Holbein the Younger: The Basel Years, 1515–1532 (Munich: Prestel, 2006), pp. 146–57.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Holbein drawing in Erasmus Praise of Folly

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