Anon. Flemish
Het Schiijtmanneke

18th century?
Polychrome terracotta
97 x 44 cm

Inv. 992.936.1

Major works | Parody on Parade

A highly unusual sculpture…

This man in the middle of defecating is part of an ancient and common iconography in Flemish art. In several of the works by Hieronymus Bosch (?- 1516), Pieter Bruegel (1525/1530 – 1569) and Pieter Balten (1520/1525 – before 1598), women or men are captured in this position, relieving themselves. There is nothing shocking about this: reality was reproduced as it was. In 1559, Bruegel, in Flemish Proverbs, depicted two figures, with only their bare buttocks visible, caught in their latrine by surprise. Below them, a nobleman throws coins into the water. Childplay, dated 1560, shows a square chamber pot in the foreground and, a little further away to the right, a little girl stirs the excrement with a stick for fun. This scatological dimension is portrayed in an entirely natural way as part of everyday life.

These sketches may come across as misplaced, slightly coarse and rude humour. But there is a meaning and symbolism of words behind the pictures. Indeed, this theme conceals something very subtle. In Flemish culture, the expression: “Uit schijten” (to leave droppings) also means “to mock”. This brings us to the moral of the picture: the pooper is not only a means of making fun of human nature, but also puts Man back into his rightful place: we are all equal during our time on Earth.

 

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