“Om dat door mynen sack veel gelts comt geslopen daer om worde ick van al de weerelt int gat ghecropen.” The proverb is derived from text that survives on the frame of the only other known version of this composition: “Om dat door mynen sack veel gelts comt geslopen daer om worde ick van al de weerelt int gat ghecropen 1592” (Because a lot of money creeps into my money bag, the whole world climbs into my hole 1592). Trans. Ilona van Tuinen. See also note 4, this entry.
The painting was last cleaned by Nancy Krieg in 2009.
Christina Currie and Dominique Allart, The Brueg(h)el Phenomenon: Paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Pieter Brueghel the Younger, with a Special Focus on Technique and Copying Practice, 3 vols. (Brussels, 2012). Currie and Allart’s study of the painting technique of Pieter Brueghel the Younger has shed light on how the artist went about making numerous copies of the same composition, frequently working on the basis of graphic designs and often creating his paintings from drawings or prints. An underdrawing was found at 780 nm; see Annette Rupprecht, “Technical notes of A Proverb: He who holds the sack of gold will always have flatterers by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, PB-101” unpublished report dated January 2013, curatorial files, The Leiden Collection, New York.
This version is larger in diameter than the present painting by 2 centimeters and its current whereabouts are unknown. The provenance stretches back to 1934, and the work most recently appeared at auction in 2001. For its historical assessment, see Gustav Glück, Brueghels Gemälde (Vienna, 1932), fig. 98; Georges Marlier, Pierre Brueghel Le Jeune, posthumously edited and annotated by Jacqueline Folie (Brussels, 1969), 150, no. 7; and Klaus Ertz, Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere, die Gemälde mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog (Freren, 1988/2000), 113–14, ft. 58, F 69, 199.
Christina Currie and Dominique Allart, The Brueg(h)el Phenomenon: Paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Pieter Brueghel the Younger, with a Special Focus on Technique and Copying Practice, 3 vols. (Brussels, 2012).
The engraving by Heironymous Wiericx is attributed alternatively to Johannes or Jan Wiericx, see F. W. H. Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, ca. 1450–1700, vol. 3, Boekhorst–Brueghel (Amsterdam, 1955), no. 169; René van Bastelaer, The Prints of Peter Bruegel the Elder: Catalogue Raisonné (San Francisco, 1992), 288, no. 169; and Nadine Orenstein, The New Hollstein Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, 1450–1700: Pieter Brueghel the Elder, ed. Manfred Sellink (Amsterdam, 2006), 166, A8.
Around the outside of the print the Flemish inscription reads: “Die ghelt te gheuen heft onder hooghe en slechte, / En dat hij wat milt laet van sijnen schat, druijpen, Hy crijcht Offitien en comt t’synen rechte, / Want elck en weet niet hoe hem sal in t’gat crujpen” (He who has money to give among high and low, / And that he liberally lets drop from his treasure, He receives offices and comes into his rights,/ Because not everyone is aware that he too shall crawl into the hole). On the lower back of the squatting man, two lines read in French: “On ne sait comme entrer on veut, / Au trou de cil qui donner peut” (One does not know how one wants to enter / The hole of he who can give). René van Bastelaer, The Prints of Peter Bruegel the Elder: Catalogue Raisonné (San Francisco, 1992), 288, no. 169.
The illustration shows a man holding a large piece of fabric fluttering in the air, while the inscription describes the flatterer as a person who changes direction depending on the wind. “Een placebo ben ick ende also gesint / dat ick de huyck alom hanch naeden wint” (A flatterer am I and so inclined / as the wind blows so blow I). M. Sellink, Bruegel: The Complete Paintings, Drawings and Prints (New York, 2007), 123.
The underlying inscription on this print reads: “Tu caligas inflare meas, ego cudere nummos” (You inflate my britches, I strike coins); see René van Bastelaer, The Prints of Peter Bruegel the Elder: Catalogue Raisonné (San Francisco, 1992), 229, no. 170.
The characterization of the wood is based on visual examination only.
An infrared composite using an InGaS camera, which reaches further into the infrared spectrum, could provide additional details.