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“As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young” David Rijckaert III


David Rijckaert III Antwerp, 1612 – Antwerp, 1661

Culture flemish
Date early 1650s
Object type painting
Medium, technique oil on canvas

92.5 x 77.5 cm
with frame: 126 x 107.5 x 14 cm

Inventory number 53.452
Collection Old Master Paintings
On view Museum of Fine Arts, First Floor, European Art 1600–1700 and British Painting 1600–1800, Cabinet 10

The setting of Ryckaert’s painting is not a real interior but a stage, equipped with decorative props and framed by a curtain. Written on an ornate cartouche in the background is a Netherlandish proverb: “As the old sing, so pipe the young”. In the seventeenth-century, instructive proverbs played a major role in educating children in the Low Countries. Following the principle of teaching through fun, pictures conveyed messages through a series of didactic motifs. For instance, the raised glass is intended to advise against intemperance, while the peeled lemon warns that the attraction of a frivolous lifestyle is only skin-deep. The adults are apparently unable to set a good example, and their children “pipe” in imitation of what they hear. The proverb illustrated in this painting is thus primarily a warning about the dangers of bad parenting.


Pigler, Andor, Katalog der Galerie Alter Meister, 1-2. Museum der Bildenden Künste, Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest. 2, Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1967, p. 608.

This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.

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