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As the sons of the Austrian artist Carl von Blaas became famous portrait painters of their time
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How fools took an important place in art, and why Ivan is not such a fool as it seems

Jesters, holy fools, madmen and simply fools – permanent characters of a huge number of works – both folklore and copyright. Why is the fool in art so attractive – only because its image seems ridiculous, and acts as ridiculous? And is he really stupid?

Fools and holy fools
A fool, or a fool – as a rule, the so-called not very smart, and often frankly stupid person, klutz. Some researchers, however, believe that the nickname “fool” was one of the names of amulets that protected against the evil eye. On the “bad” evil forces will not mate and do not harm the person. A fool at all times was distinguished by the fact that he does everything foolishly, at random, not by the rules, contrary to customs and decency, and therefore attracted attention to himself by being different from ordinary, “normal” people. The roots of this dissimilarity could be different.

In Russia, the so-called “imaginary insanity” was often encountered, and foolishness was a phenomenon with religious roots. They called foolish wandering monks, those who, in the name of Christ, consistently refused various worldly concerns – from home, family, labor, obedience to authority and the rules of public decency. The Russian Orthodox Church honors thirty-six holy and holy fools. First of all, this is St. Basil, who was respected and feared by Ivan the Terrible himself. Another “authority” for the king was Mikolka Svyat, or Nikola Salos, who, according to legend, saved Pskov from royal cruelty, offering Ivan a piece of raw meat and urging him to pray in order to be forgiven for his temper and sins.

Even earlier, in the XIII century, Prokopy Ustyugsky, a Prussian by descent, came from a merchant family, who distributed his fortune and came to Veliky Ustyug, where he lived on the church’s porch. Prokopy, according to legend, saved the city and its citizens from destruction from the elements in 1290 with their prayers.
The sense of foolishness was to abandon the existing institutions – those that can not be changed. It is not surprising, therefore, that the holy fools at the same time were respected and feared.

The fool is a constant character of folklore, one of its most ancient figures. Through centuries and millennia pass steady expressions, sayings and proverbs, making fun of or glorifying fools. “Fool around”, “The fool is only in fairy tales lucky”, “Fools are not sown, they themselves will be born” and many other statements are not only funny and ironic, but also make you think about this character as a separate phenomenon. It is easy to see that the main value of a fool in a culture is in his ability and ability to see things from a different angle, in the ability to speak the truth or, in any case, to express a simple view of things, free from conventions. In this image of the fool the jesters are very close.

Jester, Parsley and Hamlet
The jester, court or home, was called upon to entertain the owner and his guests with amusing antics, for which he received attention, salary and personal integrity – severely punishing the jester was not allowed at all times. Free in the expression of almost any of his thoughts, not bound by generally accepted norms of behavior, enjoying the sympathy of the environment and the influence on the powerful of this world, he has become a special kind of fool. It is difficult to call a jester a fool, especially if he could become closest to the ruling family.

The foolish, non-standard behavior of the jester, created for him a very vivid image, which was repeatedly reflected in art. Part of the traditional European jester dress was a cap with three ends – two of them symbolized donkey ears, and one – donkey tail or, according to another version, cockscomb. In Russia, tsarist jesters often dressed in items made of pea straw, hence the expression “buffoon”.

The jester’s right is to speak where others are silent. Therefore, they are eagerly listened to, and this explains the enormous popularity of Petrushka, a glove fair doll, which has been known in Russia since the 16th century, but most likely appeared earlier, during the time of buffoon, which in turn took on themselves the functions of folk jesters.

The clown in art has a special role. In literature, this is one of the most important characters in a work of art, which tells itself, others and the reader the truth. In England, the word “jester” was identical to “madman”, which undoubtedly did not fully reflect the essence of this figure.

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