Death as an allegory of the Dutch financial crisis of 1720-1721. Etching, 1720.

Part of:
Groote tafereel der dwaasheid.
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About this work


Two plates, one forming a border around the other. The central plate appears to be an allegory, possibly by Bernard Picart, with elements added to introduce the themes of death and financial disaster. It shows the figure of Time holding a mirror in front of a young man who points at a globe representing international speculations. A tomb behind has added share certificates labelled "Actien in blanco". Below, the lettering "Mors actionum ultrix. Graf kelder der verongelukte actionisten" (Death the avenger of shares. Burial vault of ruined shareholders)

The outer plate, containing the border, consists of strapwork peopled by dwarfs designed by Jacques Callot, and other items. It is described in an engraved legend "Een schoone lofkrans deese onse actie winkel cierd Met planten, meubilen en veelerly gediert" (A beautiful wreath of honour adorns our share-shop, with plants, furnishings and all kinds of animals). At the top is a calf's head and the head of a Jesuit blowing hard but doing only "monk's work" (i.e. useless work). On either side, cranes devour a frog and a snake, and swallows fly away at the upper corners. Below them a bird cage with a bird hangs on the left side, another cage hangs on the right empty but bearing a laurel branch representing John Law (lauw). At the bottom, a dwarf on the left fishes with a net for gold-coins, and a dwarf on the right holds a spade, having (according to the British Museum catalogue) abandoned his useful work in canals and harbours (?)

The strapwork down either side contains emblems of the Dutch bubble economy. On the left are a pair of spectacles, a cheese, a bunch of herrings and a drum, while on the right are a horn, a tobacco roll, three pipes, and a bunch of withered carrots

At the bottom in the centre, a barrel of crabs, and the cypher of John Law consisting of a crab in elaborate strapwork


[Amsterdam] : [publisher not identified], [1720]

Physical description

1 print : etching, with engraving ; platemark of inner scene 14 x 8.5 cm ; platemark of border 29.5 x 18.7 cm


Eere-titel, of gordyn voor het schouburg aller actie-tafereelen ... Literal translation of lettering: "Title page of honour, or curtain before the theatre of share pictures, painted with the share-shop of green and barren times, or mirror of the paper world". Within the border, Dutch verses and other engraved inscriptions. Below the border, letterpress printing in Dutch in five columns, comprising two and a half columns of verse and two and a half columns listing share schemes


'Het groote tafereel der dwaasheid', Amsterdam, 1720, is a collection of literary and pictorial satires relating to the Dutch speculation bubble of 1720, which occurred simultaneously with the South Sea bubble and the Mississippi bubble involving John Law. This print is one of the many in that collection: see A.H. Cole, op. cit.

References note

Frederik Muller, De nederlandsche geschiedenis in platen. Beredeneerde beschrijving van nederlandsche historieplaten, zinneprenten en historische kaarten, Amsterdam 1863, part 2, no. 3536 (1)
British Museum, Catalogue of political and personal satires, vol. 2, London 1978, no. 1638
Arthur H. Cole, The great mirror of folly (Het groote tafereel der dwaasheid). An economic-bibliographical study, Boston 1949, no. 1


Wellcome Collection 816096i


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