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What is unspoken by such a fool?

Familiar from stage, courts, yet mysteriously intelligent

(WORCESTER ART MUSEUM)
By Sebastian Smee
Globe Staff / October 25, 2011

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This picture, by the 16th-century Antwerp painter Quentin Metsys (also called Massys, or Matsys), is unmistakably of a fool. That smile could not be more splendidly idiotic. Might he also, however, signify something more? The painting, which was owned by the late art historian Professor Julius Held, has been hanging in the Worcester Art Museum’s galleries on long-term loan since the mid 1980s. It is called “Allegory of Folly,’’ and it was painted around 1510, just as Metsys was emerging as the leading painter in Antwerp.

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ALLEGORY OF FOLLY By Quinten Metsys

At: Worcester Art Museum,

Worcester. 508-799-4406,

www.worcesterart.org