Creating the world's 'fooleum' - a global museum dedicated to fools and jesters
Jesters were often highly visible whether through a distinctive physique, comportment, costume, or some combination of these. This has perhaps contributed to a wealth of visual representations of them and the pool from which they often emerged, including dwarfs, musicians, entertainers and actors.
The Fooleum will share images from a growing virtual museum, with a view to exploring the ways in which fools were captured in paintings, etchings, wood-cuts, carvings and figurines.
And we welcome offers from outrageously rich and imaginative patrons to fund the Fooleum of the real world. I’ll find the Palladian palazzo, you just need to sign the cheques.
Aims and approaches
We aim to feature as global and engaging a range of images as possible, together with references to related literature, in order to enrich our understanding of how jesters have been perceived and portrayed. Once we have some critical mass, we will make this a searchable resource, as well as a feast for the eyes and mind.
As we adore alliteration (and top marks), we employ a triple-A formula:
Ambitious – does it contribute to making this the world’s most comprehensive visual array of fools and their like? We actively seek diversity across time, space and medium.
Available – does it exist? For example, a European fool-fad lasting centuries led to miles of materials, whereas in China visual depictions are thinner on the ground. This means the Fooleum will likely have a stronger European flavour and fewer Chinese examples than we’d like.
Accessible – is it digitally and otherwise accessible? We begin with images in the public domain, or generously released for research or educational purposes. Luckily, many great museums are in full-throttle digitisation mode (applause, applause).
In sum, there is no better time to be alive if you are developing a world-spanning repository of fooldom on a shoestring. And by the time we’ve featured the affordable images, sponsors will be queueing up to lavish their largesse on other acquisitions.
Latest additions … served up as they emerge
Meet the gang
Some of the early antecedents of European jesters can be found in Greek and later Roman comic actors and mimes, some...
Fools through artists’ eyes
As part of the Festival of the Fool, we invite you to join this lively, illustrated online presentation, in which...
Portrait of Thomas Killigrew
Thomas (or Tom) Killigrew (1612-83) was an actor, theatre manager and acknowledged jester to Charles II (r. 1660-85) -...
We Three Loggerheads
This early 17th century painting of two jesters and a marotte (fool's head bauble or stick) taps into the theme of...
Five guys named Moe (VII) – Verbeeck fool
The last in this series of paintings (for now, I keep stumbling across new ones) bears a striking resemblance to our mysterious Moe No. 4. This one,...
Ceramic Egyptian dwarf
The earliest reference I have found to a possible court jester concerns a dwarf at the Egyptian court in the 3rd millennium BCE. It appears that dwarfs...
Portrait of Will Somers
Unlike the portrait of Will Somers (d. 1560) in the Psalter of Henry VIII, this engraving is posthumous, though clearly resembles those done during his lifetime.
Jester in a fool’s cap
This enigmatic painting by Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem (1562-1638) features a fool with the cap so often attributed to European jesters, though it remains unclear the extent to which real...
A capering fool
This lively 16th century tapestry includes a jester - capering or leaping - in full fool's outfit. In addition to the cap and bells, he has bells around the bottom...
Vamana, the Dwarf Avatar of Vishnu
Another telling of the three-step trick (careful what you ask for, careful what you give), concerning the god Vishnu coming to earth as a dwarf Brahmin. This...
Record cover of Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel
Till Eulenspiegel was a medieval European hit as far as folk fools go. Stories about this fictitious impish character circulated in many languages. His name - Owlglass - hints at...
Five guys named Moe (III) – Jester looking through his fingers
This version of the 'peeping through fingers' jester was attributed by Tietze-Conrat in her 1957 book to the artist Pieter Huys (c. 1519-81), although the art historian Cavalli-Björkman has questioned...
Five guys named Moe (II) – Laughing Fool
The second in our peeping-through-fingers series is almost identical in stance and props to the anonymous 'Laughing Jester' recently featured, including the coxcomb-ass-ear-cap, the glasses half-revealed, and...
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Colours and fonts were chosen for aesthetic strength and because their names reflect the mission of foolsareeverywhere.com. Fonts: Quipley I Lustria I Wild Pen. Colours include: Jester Yellow by Faeriepuffs I New Laughter by Ilara ... you get the picture