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A sleeping pedlar's posterior is examined by monkeys, who play with his goods. Line engraving after P. van Harlingen after P. Bruegel, c. 1610.

Bruegel, Pieter, approximately 1525-1569.
c. 1610

About this work


In the top-left, monkeys dance around a horizontal pole, upon which are hung a drum, a violin, bags and jewellery. A monkey in a tree bangs a drum. In the bottom-left, one monkey wears a tiara, jewels and a sword; another plays with a female doll, and peers out of spectacles. In the mirror which displays the pedlar's buttocks, a monkey is also to be seen peering out. In the top-right, the monkey by the shelf appears to be defecating into a hat. A monkey leans over the pedlar and picks his pocket


Coomen sul. Ons Coomen arme sul, was moet van t'ghaen, door drincken/ Soo dat den slacp an d'wech, hem g'heel nam t'affter dincken,/ Wij arpen saegent' haeft, naemen Sijn goet en ghingen/ dat hangen op teepronck, daer om dansen en springen ...


[Place of publication not identified] : Claes Jansz Visscher the elder, c. 1610.


4th state.

Physical description

1 print : line engraving

Publications note

René van Bastelaer, Les estampes de Peter Bruegel l'ancien. Brussels: G. van Oest & co, 1908, p. 50

H.W. Janson, Apes and ape lore, London: The Warburg Institute, 1952, pp. 216-225 (on the fable of the pedlar and the apes as a pictorial theme)


Wellcome Library no. 17505i

Reproduction note

Bruegel designed the original version of this scene, engraved by Pieter van der Heyden and published by Hieronymus Cock in 1562 (a state from 1557 exists, without the name of Bruegel). It bears the title 'Quand le mercier son doulx repos veult prendre, en vente les singes ses marchandises vont tendre'. It is, however, different in many respects from our version, which replaces Bruegel's name with Visscher's, the publisher, and claims van Harlingen as its inventor. Bruegel has four monkeys dancing in a circle, while others are actually playing the musical instruments culled from the merchant's sack, unlike our version, which has the monkeys dancing around the instruments. The merchant has a sack (albeit a large one) instead of an entire shelving unit and the curiosity of the monkeys is more vulgar; for instance, a monkey with an erect penis looks into the mirror (which does not play the strange role it does in our Visscher version). In the Bruegel, the merchant's trousers have also been dropped, but in the place of the mirror is a monkey simply holding its nose as if in disgust


  • Dutch

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License information

You can use this work for any purpose, including commercial uses, without restriction under copyright law. You should also provide attribution to the original work, source and licence.

Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) terms and conditions


A sleeping pedlar's posterior is examined by monkeys, who play with his goods. Line engraving after P. van Harlingen after P. Bruegel, c. 1610. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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