PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION
Maximilian I named his fools – by the early 16th century customary members of a royal or noble household – either with a first name or a humorous nickname, indicating that without a family name or place of origin they were outsider figures of no defined social status. The men in the carriage are recorded as: ‘Gylyme, Pock, Gülchisch Caspar, Hanns Wynnter, Guggeryllis.’ The subject of the present portrait, and the figure in Burgkmair’s print, has until now been identified as Pock. More recently, however, Erwin Pokorny has suggested that he may be Hanns Wynter, the only fool with a full name, since in the same series of woodcuts, Burgkmair depicts the figures of the Five Court Offices (block 16), from cup-bearer to shoemaker, according to the order that was dictated by the Emperor.1 If this print follows the same logic, Guggeryllis must be playing the instrument with Wynnter reaching for it.
Building on the research of Löcher, who attempted to identify the decorations on Pock's hat,2 Jos Koldeweij connected two of them with known insignia (see Literature). Among these is a gilt hat-pin of Saint Christopher, which is very similar to a lead-tin alloy insignia datable to circa 1425–74, and another of the letter M surmounted by a crown which resembles, though less closely, another insignia, believed to refer to the fools’ patron, Emperor Maximilian.3 To the left is a jewelled hat-pin flanked by a dragon, possibly evoking the sayings of King Solomon in which wine is characterised as being easily swallowed but biting like a snake the next day (Proverbs 23: 31–32). The wine (or beer) glass that the sitter is brandishing here was a common attribute of the fool. Rolf Fritz (see Literature) noted that this Warzenbacher (literally 'warty beaker') is characteristic of the Tyrol, circa 1500.4
The dragon jewel may also be a vanitas emblem, bearing a warning of decadence and revealing sin as a snake, in accordance with the fool's function as a living reminder and embodiment of Vanitas. This theme is also emphasised by the sitter’s gaudy jewellery and costume, decorated to excess, designed to appear ludicrous rather than luxurious, as well as the stock type of his expression – mouth partly open to reveal his teeth, indicating laughter.
1 Written communication, 26 March 2019; also see Pokorny 2019, under Literature.
2 Löcher's unpublished research is quoted extensively by Schnackenburg-Broschek (see Literature).
3 See Koldeweij 2006, p. 57, reproduced p. 56, figs 3.25 and 3.26.
4 Dendrochronological analysis carried out by Ian Tyers of Dendrochronological Consultancy Ltd in 2011 also confirmed that the oak panel is not of Netherlandish or Baltic origin, and thus probably Tyrolean.
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