The painting by Peter Brueghel the Elder “Two Monkeys” (“Two Monkeys on a Chain”) was painted in oil on a tree in 1562.
Genre - animalistic.
The plot is based on two brown monkeys chained to one ring. They are sitting on a wide low window that overlooks Antwerp, the sea bay with ships, towers and houses lost in fog. Animals and chain are the most vivid images of the work. They are drawn in detail and brightly. One animal turned to the viewer, however, his almost human gaze was directed inward, into the depths of his soul. Clamped, hunched postures testify to lostness and loneliness. They turned away from each other. Even being close, they do not stick together, do not support each other.
In the inclination of the head, the features, the poses, the taillessly lowered tails, there is a longing, apathy, despair and understanding of the impossibility of gaining freedom. Birds hovering over the sea create a contrast - to them, unlike chained animals, the will is available. Interestingly, birds fly in pairs, repeating the image of two animals.
Another contrast is created by a massive window opening and an elegant, transparent image of nature and the city outside the window. The landscape in the background is painted in soft, gentle tones. It is characterized by lightness, some melancholy, sadness, in contrast to the severity, monumentality and immobility of the walls and windowsill.
The work is a symbolic depiction of sin and base instincts. Monkeys are the embodiment of vices - recklessness, profligacy and frivolity. The chain holding them is aimed at taming sins and low desires. An empty nutshell is all that remains of the former, full, but now destroyed life.
Perhaps the picture is autobiographical and is connected with the author’s love affair with some servant and departure from Antwerp.
The work is stored in the State Museum of Berlin.
Painting by Pavel Andreyevich Fedotov