At School With Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Hellooooooo!!! Greetings darling Museworthy readers. We are a few more days closer to spring since I last posted here. Ain’t that grand? I thought I saw some crocus bulbs poking out of the ground the other day. :happy dance:

My friend Francisco Malonzo was recently profiled in The Palette Pages with a splendid Q & A interview and magnificent images of his work. One of them is a portrait of yours truly that also appeared in this Museworthy post. More of Francisco’s paintings of me can be seen here and here. He and I have known each other for some time through the National Academy, and I’m delighted that he’s enjoying exposure and success 🙂

Here in the Big Apple our newly-elected mayor Bill de Blasio is waging a war against charter schools. The whole thing is a shitstorm of local politics that involves the teachers’ union, irate parents, and de Blasio’s personal vendetta against Eva Moskowitz, the founder of Success Academy Charter Schools. Lost in the midst of this imbroglio? The children of New York City, who deserve better. I was reminded the other day of an engraving I’d seen once by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Flemish painter and printmaker of the Northern Renaissance period. I found it on the Web. It’s called The Ass in the School, from 1556. The humorous scene depicts a classroom – more like a barn – of unruly children and a teacher about to discipline one with a spanking on his bare butt. A mysterious woman peers from behind a window, and a donkey, aka “the ass”, studies what appears to be sheet music from his perch. The inscription reads something to effect of “the ass goes to school but will never become a horse”.


Bruegel could have been making a satirical statement about the folly of education, or rather certain aspects of it. Or perhaps a broad comment about human failings and our inherently flawed nature in the spirit of Hieronymus Bosch. If you enlarge the image and look closely, the faces of the “children” in the drawing don’t appear like true children but more like mini-adults. So Bruegel might be trying to suggest something there. Apart from the hidden commentary, the print is really great, in composition and character. Truthfully, I just wanted to post it because Bill de Blasio kind of looks like a donkey 😆

Click on this link for a nice gallery of more Bruegel prints. Have a great weekend everyone!

16 thoughts on “At School With Pieter Bruegel the Elder

  1. Bill says:

    That was a good article — I particularly liked the Young Woman with the Scarf and your portrait. It must be gratifying for both of you — to have the results of your work shared with a wider audience. Maybe make it a little easier to get up and going on those cold and/or wet NYC mornings?

    Thanks for the Bruegel — gotta love him, though I think that the man was more than a little crazy! Nothing wrong with that — though there is something definitely wrong when adults put their egos ahead of the welfare of the children. Good luck.

    • artmodel says:


      Yes, Young Woman with a Scarf is great. I liked it too. Glad you enjoyed the profile of Francisco. In addition to being a wonderful artist he’s also a lovely person.

      Bruegel may well have been a little nuts! Actually the more I look at and study his work the more I appreciate him.

      Thanks for your comments!


  2. JG says:

    DeBlasio’s not an ass; he’s a smart guy. But he is a die-hard Marxist-Leninist and anything that upsets the concept of “one standard” for the proletariat cannot be tolerated. Meanwhile, of course, the children of the apparatchiks (a/k/a Democrat “activists”) will go to “gifted and talented” programs.

    • artmodel says:


      You summed it up pretty well! Times are changing in a way that I find troubling. I’ve lived in NYC all my life and have followed our politics closely. 15 or 20 years ago, De Blasio would have been that loon fringe ideologue candidate that most people didn’t take seriously, and a guy like Bill Thompson would have won the Democratic primary. A real shift is taking place and it’s disconcerting.

      Thanks for commenting!


  3. hfreeman17 says:

    Looks like a donkey…walks like a donkey…brays like a donkey…must be a …

    I agree with JG that de Blasio is at least very shrewd, if not smart, if one reads about his political rise. He demonstrates, however, at utter neglect for or ignorance of history and economics and human psychology in his stance against the rich. It’s not like we have to be “pro-rich,” but we do have to acknowledge that it’s not wise to tax rich people so much that they–the most mobile of people–will simply up and leave NYC. And take their companies and jobs and taxes with them.

    Show me a country where his stance has worked well over time.

    • artmodel says:


      I agree with everything you said, except I’m starting to wonder if De Blasio is as shrewd as people think he is. This charter school fiasco has backfired on him big time. Maybe he’ll learn a lesson that he can’t govern this way in a city of eight million people.

      Thanks for commenting! Great to hear from you.


      • Jim O'Neil says:

        Hope you’re right Claudia, but my read of NYC’s history make me feel that alas, he can govern that way.

        • artmodel says:


          I see your point. But I see our city’s mayoral history as kind of a mixed bag. We’ve gone from Lindsay to Beame to Koch to Guiliani to Bloomberg (notice I left out Dinkins, hehe). Those guys were all quite different from each other in their philosophies and managerial styles. Some were heavy-handed, others not so much. Let’s just hope De Blasio is a one-termer. His ideological agenda matters to him more than anything. He’s in over his head.


  4. T.O. Fife says:

    One reason I followed this blog was to get away from all of the internet cynicism . . . I guess I can’t escape it.

    • artmodel says:


      Really? I’m surprised you say that. Not sure what’s cynical about this post, especially when compared to the rest of the Internet! I’ve written 726 posts on Museworthy, so there’s a good chance at least one might not tickle your fancy. This was just some fun art and a bit of local news in my city. Readers are free to comment on whichever aspect interests them.


  5. hfreeman17 says:

    T.O.: what’s “cynical”? I think this is a healthy debate in a public forum… (Besides, Claudia’s post merely tee’ed up the debate in a context of a piece of art, which has a history rooted in social protest.)

  6. Bill says:

    I think that it’s obviously time for you to move to Boston! 🙂 🙂

    Winters up here are short and temperate, the real estate is cheap, the political scene is placid and genteel . . . and I think that my nose is growing as I write this.

    • artmodel says:


      I sense a bit of sarcasm in your comments 😆 All cities have their issues, no doubt. You guys have bid farewell to Mumbles Menino. End of an era.


  7. Angie K Walker says:

    Your blog is one of my favourites. Why? Because you find lots of great art work that is new to me, because i like life drawings, because there’s some heartfelt comments on life,and, let’s be honest, I suppose I like to vicariously live the life of a life model in NY city…..even if, as I heard Ruby Wax say on the radio yesterday, talking about catwalk models, if you haven’t got the genes you haven’t got the genes….and like her, yes I do blame my parents!!

    • artmodel says:


      Good to hear from you! I know you’ve been following Museworthy for a long time now. If readers live vicariously that’s perfectly fine with me. Folks come here for a variety of reasons, I’ve learned, and it’s all wonderful in my book.

      Thanks for commenting!


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